What is the Greatest Gift for Jakarta's Slum Children?
“I asked a child who lived in this slum what she wanted to be when she was big,” said Jenny Tjoa. “Her answer was: ‘I want to be nothing’.”
Returning home to Indonesia in late 2013 after studying and working abroad for 15 years, Jenny was catapulted into action by this conversation. How can any child grow up with a vision to “be nothing”?
With his friend, Georges Hilaul, a professional Indonesian-Dutch magician, she founded Inspiration Factory Foundation in late 2014. Inspiration Factory works in Jakarta slums – educating and empowering the children of the slums to have a dream for a better tomorrow. Both have given up everything to run the Inspiration Factory full-time.
Under the muddy, dark highway bridge, the foundation and its volunteers give classes on a Sunday morning. Each child is given a brand new green uniform and a matching school bag. The Inspiration Factory Foundation reaches out to 300 children who live under the highway.
Sunday admission to school requires three things: be in uniform; be on time; bring your good conduct badge (a sticker system to encourage proper behaviour). There was 100% compliance.
Each week the children's classes include English and basic literacy. They are given a "dream book", in which they articulate their dreams and hopes. Each class gets related back to their dream.
"Every child deserves a dream," said Jenny to Our Better World, a storytelling initiative of the Singapore International Foundation. "Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has greatness in them."
"We took the children to the movies recently," Georges said. A luxury mall – with a modern multiplex cinema - is a short walk from the children's slum.
"Part of the outing was so that they could see what other jobs are out there," said Georges to Our Better World.
He means jobs other than garbage collectors, road-side knick-knack vendors and sex workers, which is often all that the children are exposed to.
In the last Sunday of every month, all those with a birthday in that month get given a birthday ceremony and gifts.
And the stories continue to pour out. Stories about how some of the children do not know their own birthdays.
Some of their parents just didn't care enough to remember that day of days. So Inspiration Factory gives them a birthday. Because someone has to remember and celebrate the day you were born.
Inspiration Factory Foundation works beyond books and bags under the highway bridge. Their greatest gift is the truth that every child born to a slum has deep value, worth, hope and dignity. The truth is that every child born to a slum needs someone to tell them that.
From now on, they will grow up with a dream and the power to reach up high for it.
A story by Our Better World – telling stories of good to inspire action.