Giving Yogyakarta Street Children a Second Chance

By Piya Dasani on 01:46 pm Aug 13, 2014
Save Street Children Jogja tries to give street kids a chance at a brighter future through lessons and support. (JG Photo/Piya Dasani)

Save Street Children Jogja tries to give street kids a chance at a brighter future through lessons and support. (JG Photo/Piya Dasani)

More than 800 children live on the streets of Yogyakarta, according to recent statistics, earning a precarious living by busking and panhandling.

For the city’s motorists and passersby, the typical response to the plight of street children is to spare some change in the hope that it will be used for good. But longer-term needs like the children’s standard of living, education and very survival can’t be addressed by such gestures, no matter how well-intentioned.

This is where Save Street Children Jogja, or SSC Jogja, comes in. A network of communities, of which the main objective is to foster the well-being of street children, it is dedicated to understanding, acknowledging and being concerned about the minors who call the streets home. The SSC network spans 18 cities across Indonesia, including Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang and Makassar.

Established in August 2011 via Twitter, SSC Jogja focuses on the intellectual, social and educational development of street children. Its volunteers regularly hold three to four classes in a week, either at its camp in the Suryamentraman area of the city, at a local Samaritan’s home in Monjali, or sometimes right on the pavement by the streets.

The SSC camp also serves as a place where street children can sleep at night — a momentary sanctuary away from the busy and dangerous streets of the city.

SSC Jogja offers a wide range of classes by giving each child the freedom to learn what they wish, in order to further motivate their desire to excel. It also aims to boost the kids’ mental strength to help them deal with life on the streets, which is often harsh and not ideal for the development of children.

The lessons range from foreign languages and basic life skills, to music lessons and more. SSC Jogja believes that by providing this program, street children will learn basic practical and life skills to better their chances of making a better life for themselves.

Yudhi, one of the few street children privileged enough to still be going to school, says he appreciates the English lessons that SSC Jogja provides.

“The lessons are fun and I intend to improve my English,” he says.

SSC Jogja also conducts occasional events on a small scale, such as breaking the fast together with street children during Ramadan, and handing out free milk to street children all over the city.

“I’d heard of this community and seen their activities in passing,” says Anthony Hanafi, a volunteer. “The children always seem to have a wonderful time. I think more such groups need to be formed, as the street children are part of our community. Children are the future generation and will grow to be the nation’s leaders, so it’s comforting to know that they’re in safe hands.”

SSC Jogja relies on 11 primary members for the continuity of its programs and 55 semi-active members who often contribute time and effort for class activities. It hosts around 30 street children in its classes, who range in age from 8 to 19 years old.

The volunteers believe in the concept of family and in not leaving anyone behind. “Although we interact just a few times a week, this small community feels like a happy family, which was our primary objective to begin with,” says Didin, the SSC Jogja spokesman.

Contributors and volunteers to the group include high school and university students, and civil servants. As a highly active community, one of its primary challenges is raising funds, which it does largely through selling items donated by volunteer, as well as through donations from the public.

All forms of donations are welcome. The group plans to build a small library at its camp and is looking for good-quality used books for children. Stationery, notebooks and clothes are also needed.

If you live in Yogyakarta and wish to make a difference to the life of a child, all you have to be is committed, enthusiastic and willing to give your time and skills.

For more information, contact Didin at rasdidin@gmail.com