Every day, a team of outreach workers goes out into the city of Bandung with a box full of art materials: different types of paper, coloured paints and brushes, coloured pencils and crayons, glue and scissors, children's books and so on.
He or she spreads a mat on the floor and unpacks the materials and invites the children to come and join. All interested street children are welcome. An event takes around four hours. In heavy rain events are sometimes cancelled, as they take place on the street and a suitable dry place cannot always be found.
Art in a Box events are held on fixed dates and times and at fixed locations. We identified a number of inner city hotspots where street children gather and these are used as the locations for the Art in a Box events.
The reasons that the events have fixed dates and fixed locations are 1) that it allows volunteers and the project team to visit the Art in a Box events announced and unannounced, to meet the children and draw, paint and play with them; 2) it makes it easier to monitor the events and see that the outreach worker conducts them as agreed. And 3), perhaps the most important reason, is that it makes it easy for the street children to find us!
The street children know when and where our Art in a Box events take place. Often, they are waiting for the outreach worker to show up so they can draw, paint, read and be heard.
Art is a good way to express your emotions, especially for children who cannot always voice what they feel or have experienced.
Art provides distraction: for a few hours they can forget about their troubles and just draw, make things with paper and carboard, paint, read books, tell stories or make music.
As the story of Ira shows us, events such as these can help a child learn to read and write, can help him start believing in himself and thus pave the way for his further development.
These events are also a way to get to know more about the issues the street children are facing. What medical, social or psychological support do they need? Can we help, for example by referring them to health care professionals willing to help street children for no or a very low fee?
If the outreach worker sees a child with a serious issue, our program may be able to provide short or long-term social and medical support through our excellent contacts with local universities and healthcare professionals.
The outreach workers also give out useful information about health, hygiene, nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and drug use without taking a moral standpoint.
OUR OUTREACH WORKERS: AT THE HEART OF WHAT WE DO
Our outreach workers know what it's like to live on the streets. They are former street children themselves or have extensive experience working with street children. Most have no formal training but this is not unusual in a country like Indonesia.
Experienced tutors from succesful international NGO SOS Children's Villages have indicated they want to help our outreach workers develop their skills. Their training programme includes awareness of child protection, unconditional love and acceptance, supporting the child in its rehabilitation, socialization and education processes, awareness of developmental psychology, developing active listening skills and empathy, and storytelling and play activities.