Street kids take two days off for fun and learning

Street kids take two days off for fun and learning

The Jakarta Post, Bogor

For most students, July means a two-week holiday. But for street children it means two days off from miserable life on Jakarta’s streets and a chance to learn tricks that can keep them alive.

A two-day "Lindungi Aku" (Save Me) jamboree in Taman Buah Mekar Sari, Bogor, allowed around 600 street children from 16 of the city’s marginalized areas to have some fun and participate in educational activities at the same time.

Hery Sebastian, the jamboree’s coordinator, said the event was held to commemorate National Children’s Day, which falls July 23 and promotes the protection of marginalized children.

"The street children are fragile to violence as they live with danger most of the time," Hery said.

Jamboree participants joined a discussion about drugs, sex and sexual abuse. Speakers from the Love the Children of the Nation Foundation (YCAB) provided the kids with information about the dangers of drugs and also explained to them their rights.

The 11th jamboree is held by Sahabat Anak, a non-profit organization concerned with providing education to impoverished children.

According to the children themselves, most have suffered from both sexual abuse on the streets and drug problems.

Hery said meager protection for street children and weak law enforcement of the crimes perpetrated against them are caused by a lack of understanding of the importance of counseling, difficulties in accessing law bodies and lacking support from family members.

"So this jamboree also aims to persuade the children that they are valuable and are able to protect themselves from bad influences."

There are 10 integral stipulations in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, also known as the Geneva Declaration, on the universal rights of children: equality, food, normal development, education, protection from exploitation, a name, relief in times of distress, recreation, health and a nationality.

According to 2005 Social Affairs Ministry data, there are about 30,000 street children in Jakarta.

The jamboree also included a bonfire session, activities requiring creativity and fun games.

"We are trying to build their creativity by asking them to express everything on a piece of paper then exhibit it," said Linayati Tjindra, a jamboree committee member. "We also want them to have fun with games that teach them about teamwork."

During the organized games period, a child calling himself Hendi, though acknowledging it is not his real name, said he enjoyed the jamboree.

"I have so much fun during the jamboree as I gain many presents from the contests here," said he child, who "works" in Grogol.

Hendi earns money as a street singer and sometimes as a "three-in-one" jockey.

"I could earn around Rp 20,000 a day," he said, adding that he prefers life on the streets over going to school because he was already able to make money and put food on the table.

"I sometimes use the money to buy glue, so I can sniff it and get high and dream," said the 16-year-old, who first learned about glue sniffing from a friend two years ago.

"We once rehabilitated him, but he had withdrawals. Now we are trying to help him stop again," Hery said in reference to Hendi’s glue sniffing addiction.

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