Have you seen that pouring rain? Can you hear that constant booming thunder? See the lightening cracking the sky? It is Saturday night and the storm is incredible and it is keeping me awake!
Tossing and turning in bed and trying to block out the noise is not working. My mind is racing, thinking about how awful tomorrow will be when I am so tired. Children, chores, cooking dinner — ugh. Then I think of Rudy.
Well, that thought gave me a jolt. Rudy is a boy I met for the first time in September last year. He is 12, maybe 13 already. I met him at SD Dinamika which is a small primary school run for the children who live, work and play on the gargantuan landfill site in Bekasi that is Bantar Gebang.
The storm got me wondering, how does Rudy and his family weather a storm like this? Frankly, I don’t know. I am ashamed to say that I don’t know where Rudy lives, what his house looks like, about his brothers and sisters. But I can make an educated guess.
Rudy comes to school at SD Dinamika, so I am fairly certain that his family live on the dump and that their house is little more than a cobbled-together shack with no electricity or running water. Everyone in the family will scour the dump for valuable finds — plastic, metal, bones even — to sell to the agents and make a daily wage. Kids as young as 5 have been seen scavenging at the site. They dodge the excavators, the garbage trucks that rumble in from the city, the glass, the rats — most often with bare hands and feet — to eke out an existence from the garbage.
I do know that when it rains, the already treacherous dump becomes even more dangerous. Flood water mixed with fetid trash and filth make Rudy’s journey to SD Dinamika impossible, so on those days, he can’t attend. I can’t imagine what must happen to his home.
The incredible thing is that Rudy does come to school. Despite its situation, Rudy’s family, like the families of the 180 or so other pupils at SD Dinamika, has found a way to keep him at school and now he is in his final year. The grade 6 national exam is looming and Rudy will hopefully do well. In class he is engaged, always listening, and eager to answer any questions put to him by the teachers. The most endearing thing about Rudy is that he is always smiling. His is a face I will never forget.
Bantar Gebang and the plight of its people are well-known to Jakartans and as such many different organizations try to help. SD Dinamika sits in a new building, provided by the people of Japan a couple of years ago. Yayasan Buddha Tzu Chi Indonesia has a strong ongoing relationship with the school, donating books, stationery and clothes for the children.
Werkgroep 72 is an international Dutch foundation that funds the national exams for grade 6 and provides alternative learning opportunities and experiences for the children at school — weekly art and craft sessions for all grades and fortnightly English lessons for grade 6. Once a year the whole school is taken on an outing; a chance to get off the dump, even if it is for just one day. This is how I came to know Rudy, through spending half an hour or so chatting with him and his classmates during the English lessons provided by Werkgroep 72.
So much needs to be done to change the outcome for Rudy and families like his. I firmly believe that education plays a vital role in this, and it is thanks to the organizations that lend a hand to SD Dinamika that the children have a better chance for a different future. Maybe you feel differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The storm is still raging out there and it doesn’t seem to be easing up at all. The rain is coming down in buckets. I wonder if Rudy and his friends will make it into school on Monday? I really hope so. And I hope he is careful.
For more information on Werkgroep 72, go to http://www.werkgroep72.org/english.htm