If you have spent any time ensnared in Jakarta’s notorious traffic, you know the street kid code: look poor, look hungry, look helpless.
But what you might not know is that these same kids, given the right recipe of encouragement and attention, can also look cheerful, radiant and carefree.
Each and every day Jakarta’s street children weave in and out of traffic, dressed in tatters, hands cupped hoping for change. But the change they need has nothing to do with money. In fact, the money you give these street children doesn’t do anything for them — if anything, it locks them in a circle of poverty and keeps them on the street.
The change Jakarta’s street children need comes in incorruptible, virtuous steps made by caring individuals who give these children change and offer them a way out.
For Rany Pranasatria, this change comes in the form of teaching music. Most of the kids who come to Rumah Singgah Melody (Halfway House of Melodies) are already deft when it comes to the ukulele, but Rany wants to put violins and angklung, a traditional Sundanese bamboo musical instrument, in their hands. She wants to provide the kids of Bintaro and Ciputat with a good alternative education, as well as learning options that might eventually lead to something better.
“Children love music — and they have all this untapped talent,” said Rany, who founded Rumah Singgah Melody two years ago along with two close friends, Janti Iriantini and Heidy Handayani.
“I don’t want to see their talents go to waste. Musical ability can open so many doors and lead to better learning skills and character development.
“Something that has stuck with me, one of the first things that I learned when I started working with street kids, is their willingness and discipline to study; it’s remarkable.”
But what sets RSM apart from all the other yayasan (foundations) out there? Surprisingly, it might be the air-conditioner, which provides the children a cool escape from the sweltering Jakarta heat and keeps them coming back week after week.
When Rany founded RSM, a two-story music-and-dance oriented alternative school for street children on family land in Bintaro, she was adamant about creating a space where the children would feel both tenderness and inspiration, as well as a cool breeze. With an air- conditioner in each room, the sound of guitars, violins and traditional angklung mixes with the crisp cool air and keeps both the children and the instruments protected from the heat and humidity.
But air-conditioners aren’t everything. RSM’s success also lies in the hearts of the volunteers, who teach everything from music, English and math to computer skills, speech and storytelling.
They might just be the glue that keeps everything at RSM together. “The children’s passion to learn is what really makes RSM special,” says Dinda Citrini, one of 13 volunteers giving their time on a weekly basis to more than 80 street kids at the Bintaro site.
“You have to see their faces when they’re in class. It’s like we’re showing them that speaking and learning English isn’t impossible.” Dinda volunteers alongside Galuh Antari every Saturday, teaching English to children between the ages of 4 and 8.
“The kids are really enthusiastic about learning English,” said Galuh, who has been volunteering at RSM for more than a year and a half. “Their enthusiasm pushes me to keep coming back and volunteering every week.”
But the real key to why Rumah Singgah works might stem from Rany’s passion to involve the parents of the children. Rany understood the need to have the parents on board early and set out immediately to show the parents of the children attending RSM — construction workers, trash collectors and public bus drivers — that the alternative school was a free option for parents who could not afford to send their children to public school. RSM also provides a weekly motivational class for the parents.
Says Rany: “We want all the children to have a strong mental self-confidence, and not be afraid to achieve their dreams.”
Count Me In is a volunteer initiative created by BeritaSatu Media Holdings that aims to connect like-minded people with meaningful causes inJakarta and across Indonesia.
For more information, visit thejakartaglobe.com/pages/countmein or follow @CountMeInID on Twitter.