This is the story of former street child Mr Ira (also known as Kaira or Sukira), who was a huge inspiration to set up the program.
When Ira was five, his mother died. His father, a poor farmer left with nine children, was overwhelmed; he divided his children amongst relatives and left them to find a new life. Ira was placed with his grandmother, who was too poor to even put him in school but tried her best to give him religious lessons.
When Ira was eight, he wanted to be with his father. He had heard he had gone to Bandung, so Ira jumped on a bus and came all the way to Bandung. He arrived alone at the busy bus station in the big city, not knowing where to go or what to do.
From them, he learned how to find food in rubbish heaps, how to collect and sell cardboard, how to steal, beg and shine shoes. At night he was lonely and desperate, and cried many tears.
At that time, the Indonesian NGO Anak Merdeka reached out to street children through art on the streets. The outreach workers kept coming back.
With help from one of the outreach workers, Ira eventually found his father when he was about eleven years old. He was shocked to discover that his father was homeless too! His father had a simple job to keep him alive but no place to stay, and therefore could not look after Ira.
Ira went back to the group of street children who had become his friends. When he was fifteen, he started smoking, using drugs and drinking alcohol, hoping it would make him forget his hard life.
International NGO Save the Children kept sponsoring Anak Merdeka and together with local outreach organisation SEMAK they taught Ira many useful skills, from screen-printing to driving a car.
With their continued support and belief in him, he managed to get off the drugs and alcohol and turn his life around. He realised he wanted to become a peer educator and he learned all he could about child rights.
At age twenty-five, seventeen years after becoming homeless, he was given the opportunity to have his own room: finally, a home. He met a nice girl who was training to become a kindergarten teacher, fell in love, got married and had a son.
Mr Ira feels he is destined to help other children in need, just as he was supported when he lived on the street.
Indonesia is estimated to be home to more than five million street children. In Bandung alone, an estimated 3,000 to 11,000 children are on the streets. Our surveys have shown that their population is very diverse:
Homeless children lack access to basic living conditions, safety, education and loving guidance. Unprotected, these children are vulnerable to mental trauma, addictions, sexual diseases and HIV infection. They receive no education and have little chance of ever living a better life.
Homeless girls are especially at risk of trauma, sexual exploitation and unwanted pregnancies producing new generations of street people.
We can't 'save' all the street children, but we can make a big difference for some!
Financial and social problems play an obvious role, but many children have medical issues too.
An outreach event in 2010, during which more than one hundred street children were medically examined, showed that many street children had skin problems, fever, common cold, coughing and diarrhoea. Some fourteen-year-old boys had syphilis, a fifteen-year-old girl and boy had gonorrhoea.
Drugs and alcohol play a part. Most of the seven- to fifteen-year-olds that were questioned smoked cigarettes and many said they had sniffed or were sniffing glue.
Psychological problems range from traumas such as abandonment, death of a parent and family breakups to physical and sexual abuse and exploitation.
It is true that there are Indonesian laws and regulations promoting national development planning for children and child rights-based programmes.
It is true that the Indonesian government has formally acknowledged child rights.
It is true that there are state shelters and open house programmes for street children.
It is also true that many of the effective support services are dependent on foreign donors and private initiatives.
The Bandung Street Children Program is run and overseen by the Perkumpulan Sanggar Sahabat Anak (loosely translated this means: the Friendly Place for Children Association). This Association was established in 2014 by a number of members of Rotary Club Bandung Braga Metropolitan with the purpose of managing and overseeing the Bandung Street Children Program.
The Association is a formal and legal non-profit Association registered with the Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
Any Association is run by its members, and so is this one. Each year we will hold an official Member Meeting, during which members can vote on important decisions, such as the annual reports and budgets and who will be on the Executive Board or the Financial Control Committee. Members who do not live in Indonesia can vote by proxy (though another member) or in writing.
All members are volunteers, including the members of the Association's Executive Board and the Financial Control Commission. You become a member by paying the modest yearly membership fee, which earns you the right to get involved and vote on important decisions.
Why don't you become a member and support the program? Click here for more information on becoming a member.
The Executive Board is elected from and by the Association's members during the yearly Member Meeting. The task of the Executive Board is to oversee the Bandung Street Children Program and to draw up the Association's annual reports.
The Financial Control Commission is a separate commission within the Association, also elected from and by the members during the yearly Member Meeting. Its task is to check the previous year's annual financial report and approve the coming year's budgets.
Once a year in February or March a Member Meeting is held where all important decisions are submitted to the Association's members for approval, such as the annual reports, the election of a new Executive Body or Financial Control Commission and so on. Every member has one vote and members can vote by proxy (through another member) or in writing.
The responsibilities and duties of the Executive Board, the Financial Control Commission and the members are laid down in the Articles of Association and in Bylaws. The Articles of Association are in Indonesian, the Bylaws are in English; a copy or an English translation is available on request.
Does this sound too complicated? You don't have to vote; if you trust the other members to run the program, you can also be a silent member.
A Project Team has been appointed to run the program on a daily basis. At this point, all Project Team members are volunteers. Our local Art in a Box outreach workers and BSCP Home for Girls staff naturally receive a salary as well as professional training and guidance.
The Project Manager is appointed by the Association and reports to the Assocation, ensuring that financial and executive control of the program always remains with the Association.
The Bandung Street Children Program was initiated in 2010 by members of Rotary Club Bandung Braga Metropolitan. Since then, this active club has kept the project going forward and has recently helped set up the formal Association that oversees the progam. The club remains a major sponsor and many of its members are also members of the Association.
The international Rotary network has helped the project since the beginning in 2010 with many smaller and larger donations.