Street children the focus of special day in Jakarta

Street children the focus of special day in Jakarta

Tifa Asrianti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Laughter and shrieks of joy filled the Kridaloka complex at the Gelora Bung Karno sports center Sunday, where more than 300 street children gathered to enjoy a day of fun with their friends.

The event, themed Sowing Love Reaping Hope, was organized by Sahabat Anak (Friends of the Children), a non-profit organization focused on providing education to impoverished children.

During the day, the children took part in several activities and games, including races, animal hunting and face painting.

As part of the program, families with two children were invited to play games with the street children under the supervision of volunteers.

Eleven-year-old Evi, who lives near the railway tracks in Manggarai, South Jakarta, negotiated an obstacle course with her "new family".

She ran out onto a wooden pole, jumped over several tires, climbed a net made from rope and slid down a slide with new "brothers" Rio and Ryan, while their parents Arni and Budi watched from the sidelines.

Arni and Budi, a couple from Joglo in West Jakarta, attended the event after hearing about it from a family friend.

"We want to teach our children to share with other children and to be grateful for what they have," Arni said.

Susi, a Sahabat Anak volunteer, said interest in the program had grown in recent years.

"However, we didn’t have many families participating today, so we also involved steady couples and singles in the games," said Susi, who has worked with the non-governmental organization since 2006.

U.S. citizen Troy Landis, who joined the Prumpung branch of Sahabat Anak in 2006, also participated in Sunday’s activities.

Sahabat Anak’s Prumpung branch in East Jakarta is one of seven educational shelters the organization operates.

The organization primarily offers street children support and education and sometimes even reunites them with their parents.

Landis said joining the organization gave his life new meaning but after moving to Surabaya in East Jakarta last year he was unable to participate in many Sahabat Anak activities.

"I came to Jakarta just for this occasion. I miss the children," he said.

Another volunteer, Friska, said she had been involved with the organization since 1998.

Aside from watching the children grow, Friska said she had witnessed some street children giving birth at a very young age.

"Sometimes we have to give financial or legal support to the children’s families," she said.

Sitta Manurung from Sahabat Anak said the event was held to encourage Jakartans to become friends with street children.

Established in 1997, Sahabat Anak holds annual jamborees for street children in the capital.

"We want to encourage all people in Jakarta to be friends with street children. We hope they will offer the children support," Sitta said.

Sitta said people interested in the organization could visit http://www.sahabatanak.com for more information.

"Even though funding is important, most of the children just need love and attention from the public," she said.

Susilo Adinegoro from Sanggar Akar, another NGO focused on the welfare of street children, said more could be done to reduce the number of children forced to live on the streets.

"I hope there will be a deal struck between communities that care for street children and the city administration, so when the administration wants to make a new regulation we can also be involved in relevant discussions," Susilo said.

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