Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Let's join our candles for hope

I don’t know how to start talking about poverty today. I’d written an article for OMNI on October 2007 Indonesian Speaks Out Against Poverty. One and a half year gone by, but the issue is still the same...economic situation doesn't seem to be better. Poverty is still spreading all over the country. It feels even worse although the number provided by the official data said the contrary. Poverty is one subject that is always in my concern, that is why I’d like to join Bloggers Unite in “Unite for Hunger and Hope”.

An article from showed, at the end of the year 2006 the number of officially poor people in Indonesia was increased from the number officially produced in 2005. 4m more people become poorer in a year, not to mention those who were not counted in. It was 18% of the population of 220m. According to the article the numbers will be bigger if there were no cash handouts (BLT). The article also claimed that Indonesia will have more than 80m Indonesians in poor status if the government used the US$ 1 a day as a measurement. The goverment used the measurement below US$ 16.80 a month as the starting point of the poverty status.

That was before the global financial crises came. News uploaded in January 2009 from Rohmatin Bonasir, a journalist from BBC Indonesia, in a compilation of poverty stories, showed a better standing- 15% of the total population as the data of 2008. Yet, the financial aid was already 4 times the aid given in 2004. Bonasir reports are in Bahasa Indonesia but she also showed pictures. Some are in these series: poverty series, poverty 1, poverty 3

What I saw in practice is the huge different life style that we can feel when entering a mall like Grand Indonesia or Senayan City to the real life of most Indonesian people. In those malls we do not really sensing the financial crises. People go out and buy things with high prices, or queue up for discounted prices that were probably still a month salary for an Indonesian teacher in a public school, or even for a middle class private school’s teacher.

Life is difficult for most Indonesians. When poverty is spreading, then the most affected sectors are healthy food intake and education for children. It is sad as healthy food and education are also the way to change their “destiny”. Healthy food is the intake to help the brain and the body function well. Education is the way to improve their talents into creative actions. Children need both health and education to be able to improve their standard of living in their adulthood.

It is not strange that some poor urban kids are having only rice and noodles. Healthy food like eggs and meat are not in their mother’s list anymore. Salted fish and “tempe” (fermented soybean patty) perhaps are the most common healthy food for them. But, there were times when the price of “tempe” and “tahu” (tofu) are also augmented because of the rising soybean’s price.

The price of good education is also soaring up. Then, chances for these children to upgrade themselves become more limited. Usually in this case, girls are the first excluded from the pathway. Indonesian family, who are patriarchal, will prefer schooling for boys than for girls. While actually girls also need good education to be able to continue teaching the younger generation. It was the struggle of R.A. Kartini, Dewi Sartika, two of our women heroines, to provide education for girls. We also need an improvement of education system in Indonesia so that we can give chances youngsters to be ready to run into the workforces even if they do not have enough capability, either in financial or in their interest/capability to study in the university.

Hunger is not always only due to lack of food. There is also hunger for love. For middle class citizens who can still afford healthy food for their children, it is a struggle to provide time for their beloved kids. Sometimes both parents should work, not only from eight to five but also long after those working hours. The problem of traffic can also cause delayed time to spend with their family. The stress of overload of works can also popped out anger at home. Then the hunger of love is taking over the hunger of food. It could also drive children into drugs or other worse possibilities.

I don’t want to venture more into the dark side of the life road. Now I want to share hope. There is also hope. We can see in churches, mosques, or temples the health services provides for those who need cheaper or even free health services. Then there is also the action of being foster parents, giving donation for kids to continue their studies. These days more and more provinces are providing schools for free (at least 9 years free public education). I do hope that the universities will not close their doors to students who are not able to pay the large amount needed to enter their university.

Some people are opening “rumah baca”, a place to read for free, or giving free tutorial for kids either in enhancing their talents or in creating new ability to support their living. We are lucky that there are always existed people who care about others. Hopefully it won’t fade away by global financial crises. Even a small candle can share its light, so we can join together sharing our small lights together to make a brighter light of hope in the world. Whatever small deeds we can do in our nearest environment will add something to the world. Let’s join together and act something…

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