"Jakarta Kid" - slum children in Indonesia
Posted 10 August 2007 - 05:08 PM
This video intrigued me, as someone who has visited Jakarta but never strayed outside the 'security zone' of Western-style hotels, bars and shopping malls. I've always taken the advice of readers of this forum and of guidebooks seriously - Jakarta is a dangerous place where Westerners can easily come to grief. At the same time, various commentators whose opinions I respect (Duncan Graham, author of 'The People Next Door', and Brandon Hoover of thejavajive.com) describe venturing beyond the comfort zone and interacting with ordinary people as one of the most rewarding experiences one can have in Jakarta.
I discovered that the YouTube clips had been created by the author of the "Jakarta Kid" blog, which describes itself as a fictionalized account of an English teacher's ten years in Jakarta. The blog, which is more like a novel or memoir than a random collection of musings, is mainly about the author's attempts to intervene directly in the lives of street children, by arranging for medical care for children who were obviously neglected or homeless. The blog was clearly written after the fact, so the author has a somewhat critical perspective on himself and his motivations - he talks about feelings of smugness or superiority that he experienced on occasions, or about times when his actions caused distress to people around him (in particular his driver, who had to endure the sight of his boss dishing out relatively large amounts of money to people who didn't work for a living).
My attitude when in Southeast Asia has generally been one of noninterference. I tend to assume that whatever problems are there are beyond my ability to address, and tend to be skeptical of Westerners engaged in attempts to 'reform the natives'. Large tips for people who looked after me well (e.g. drivers who stayed with me for several days) are about the extent of what I'll do. This blog made me think about the ethics and practicality of taking more direct action and about whether I have been too cautious in the past.
Links: YouTube videos
Jakarta Kid blog
Posted 12 August 2007 - 07:37 AM
Just my opinion:
Security advices should be taken carefully. Not only in Indonesia.
Many countries do not provide medical care free or for reasonable fees, even not to children. Pay cash or die early...
This foreigner does not understand, that to give money to poor children in cash does not help. It is wasted money - either the money is taken away from the children by gangsters or even in case it is used for buying useful items like food or medicine, it will not change much...after 2 days the same poverty will be back again.
I think, what you do, is correct.
This question will bring up a 50/50 reply - yes and no.
What can you really do?
Never give any money to NGOs and churches and other organizations, which are offering help for the poor. As far as I know, about 80 percent of your money will never arrive, but will be used for keeping the organization operating...
These groups cannot help anyway, as there are too many poor children (I am talking now only about poor children, not about adults)
Never go there and give any money uncontrolled to poor people in a slum, it will be used for drugs and alcohol, and the children will receive nothing...
Yes, you might become active and taking a direct action of YOUR choice - This is what I did. But be aware, that this is an expensive adventure.
I myself take care for a Philippine fostergirl since over 4 years - it is not easy to help and the way to get finally out of poverty is difficult.
Compared to Indonesia, Philippine government however does not care about foreign help and does not restrict foreigners. Philippines has over 2 million street children. I do not know about Indonesia,
You cannot help everybody, you have to decide, whom to help.
Posted 12 August 2007 - 05:28 PM
Re-reading my message and your post I remembered the scene towards the beginning of 'The Year of Living Dangerously'. The Australian journalist played by Mel Gibson in the film is taken on a tour of Jakarta's slums by Billy Kwan, the diminutive Chinese-Australian photographer played by Linda Hunt. The Gibson character's attitude is pretty much like mine - he doesn't believe that it's within his power or even appropriate to do anything beyond report on what he sees. Billy Kwan is moved to direct action and adopts a child in a kampung. Just struck me as an interesting parallel to this discussion.
Posted 13 August 2007 - 01:44 AM
IMO It is a disappointing reflection on people from rich nations who believe they can make a tangible difference to the lives of poor, desperate people by throwing cash at them. Even significant sums can make little difference and may actually make things worse in some strange way. It's true to say, that no matter how much money you have, you always need more.
Referring to street children... what they need more than anything is a mentor, a role model, an education, a safe home environment with a stable family life. No amount of cash can buy these things. If you can take on these children in the long term, with regular money (only a little may be necessary), are prepared to monitor how it is being used, can give up some of your time every year to go and visit them... then this will make a real difference to their lives. Realistically, you can't do this with more than one or two kids. National problems are for national leaders to deal with, not much you can do about that apart from complain to them.
If you want to stick a hundred Dollars in their begging bowl and then walk away, you might as well use the money to go and get drunk... because the kid's street manager probably will if you don't.
As far as charities are concerned, I've seen too many revelations of charity staff embezzling funds, driving around in 4WD vehicles that were unnecessarily purchased with charity funds, or abusing the children/victims themselves.
Better that you decide for yourself how the money is used.
Just my tuppence worth.
Posted 13 August 2007 - 07:34 AM
Referring to street children... with regular money (only a little may be necessary), are prepared to monitor how it is being used, can give up some of your time every year to go and visit them... then this will make a real difference to their lives. Realistically, you can't do this with more than one or two kids.
If you want to stick a hundred Dollars in their begging bowl and then walk away, you might as well use the money to go and get drunk...
As far as charities are concerned, ....Better that you decide for yourself how the money is used.
As you said correctly - regular money - and you as an individual from the Western world with an average salary cannot do this with more than one or two children.
...only a little may be necessary...
How much is 'a little'?
I used over EURO 20.000,- during these 4 years (this means about Euro 400 to 500 per month) - but now after all is finally arranged, EURO 100,- per month is enough.
Money is taken away immediately from street-children by relatives or other slum people, many of them will use it for alcohol and drugs. Even children, who manage to keep some money for themselves, will waste it quickly in an internet-shop for games or for icecream and softdrinks...
Most money given to charities is misused for the sake to keep the organization running, usually this is around 80 percent.
Only 20 percent or less of all donations are expected to arrive at 'selected families' - not really the poorest, but those, who are the most willing to show up as a model for 'documentation of poverty' - often these are relatives or friends of the local staff (like relatives of the maid or gardener of the NGO office).
Donations are used to invite local politicians for expensive dinners, for private 'research trips' using 5-star hotels and business-class in airplanes, for various parties and shows for 'fund-raising activity', for 'official cars' mostly used for private shoppings, for refill the 'private' swimmingpool of the office...and so on and so on...
Posted 13 August 2007 - 09:50 AM
I would never adopt a child, however I am willing to act as a foster parent or sponsor. There is a big difference between adoption and fostercare/sponsorship.
Fostercare/sponsorship can be cancelled anytime, it is without any obligation - however adoption is a highly risky task for a man from Europe. I cannot recommend it.
Street-children are rarely available for adoption (and often even not for fostercare) as streetchildren are not like orphans (due to an deadly accident of the parents for example and taken over by official social welfare) and they are not abandoned children with proper documentation (for example the mother gives birth and signs a contract to release the newborn child for adoption).
Street-children belong to their parents, who are mostly living in the same slum or to relatives, who are holding de facto custody rights over them.
Philippines has some certain laws, which must be respected. You cannot just take a street-child away from the street and bring it to your home....
In the case of my fostergirl (at that time 7 years old) it was possible to remove parental rights from both, mother and father, by court-order due to severe child-mistreatment, malnutrition and neglect of parental care.
To proof this was not difficult with some medical reports by a public hospital and the Social Welfare Office, which questioned the child directly in all details and made an offical report for the court, recommending to remove parental rights.
However this works only, if you can prove in a court, that the child is actually (severely) mistreated.
To be a street-child and living together with the other family members in a slum and jobless parents (or relatives) not able to provide good food everyday and not able to pay for school etc...these are not legal reasons to remove the child from the parents.
Most of these street-children despite bad living conditions want to live with their parents and relatives.
Many slum people are unwilling to change their life, many are also lazy, many are into drugs and alcohol, many criminals...
It is not easy to take care of street-children. What to do? How to do it?
Posted 13 August 2007 - 10:13 AM
How did you go about selecting a child to support?
Who supervises the child and ensures that your donations are put to good use when you are not there?
Posted 13 August 2007 - 02:19 PM
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