SOS Children's Villages has been present in Indonesia since the early 1970s, when it started working in Lembang, near Bandung on West Java. The work of our organisation has adapted to the changing needs of the people of Indonesia; in some areas emergency relief programmes were set up as a response to natural disasters or armed conflict. Many of these have led to more permanent support, and SOS Children's Villages now supports children, young people and families in eight locations throughout the island state.
An increasing number of families living in destitution
SOS mother with three of the children in her care (photo: S. Posingis)
Jakarta is not only Indonesia's capital, but also its largest city. It is estimated that over nine million people live in the city, and the figure continues to rise. Jakarta is by all accounts an over-populated, congested and polluted city.
People from other urban and rural areas continue to move to the capital city in search of a better future for themselves and for their family. However, life in the capital is often very difficult for people with little education or training. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands are living in poverty in Jakarta. Many families are living in very precarious conditions - for example in improvised housing along the river banks or under bridges. Not only do they lack access to safe drinking water, sanitation or electricity but they are also exposed to the risk of flooding. People living in these slum areas survive by selling small goods on the streets or scavenging for rubbish such as paper, plastic or cans to resell.
Children growing up in these circumstances are very vulnerable, since they are exposed to illnesses associated with malnutrition and poor sanitation facilities. Some parents here do not manage to provide their children with the amount and type of food they require and the children suffer from malnutrition. Other parents manage to meet the basic needs but can only dream of sending their children to school. These social and economic conditions have a huge impact on family life, and many fall apart. In fact there has been an increase in the number of children who are no longer able to live with their parents. Some of the children in our care have lost both parents, in other cases they have one parent who has struggled to provide for them. Single mothers in particular find it hard to get a job and support so that their children can continue to live with them.
Providing families with the support they need
SOS Children's Villages started working in Indonesia in the early 1970s. The country has experienced many changes in the decades since, and our activities have increased over the decades in order to reach a growing number of vulnerable families and children. Our most recent family strengthening programmes adapt to meet the needs of the local population.
What we do in Jakarta
Children browsing books in the SOS mobile library (photo: SOS archives)
In 2005, SOS Children's Villages Indonesia launched its first family strengthening programmes. Working with local authorities, we aim to support families at risk of abandoning their children and to encourage them to stay together. The SOS Social Centre in Jakarta offers counselling, as well as community support. The programmes are designed to ensure that children have access to essential services, such as education, health services and psycho-social therapy. Families are given food or assisted with income generation, and they receive help when dealing with the authorities. By attending workshops and self-help groups people's parental skills and awareness of children's rights are improved. In addition, the SOS Kindergarten provides day care for up to 90 children. To parents who have to earn a living it is very important to have professional day care for their children, so that they are not forced to leave them unattended while they are at work.
For children whose families can no longer take care of them SOS Children's Villages provides a loving home in one of the 15 SOS families, where they grow up with their brothers and sisters and are cared for by an SOS mother. These children can attend the SOS Kindergarten, where they are taught together with children from local families. Later they attend schools in the area, which helps them become part of the local community. We run after-school activities to support the children with their schooling, for example computer and music lessons. We also run a mobile library which visits different schools and neighbourhoods in the city. Apart from allowing children access to books, it provides them with fun educational activities.
When young people are ready to move out of the SOS families they join our SOS Youth Programme when they start vocational training or go on to higher education. With the support of qualified professionals, the young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. Given the difficult economic climate in the city, many activities focus on developing the young people's entrepreneurial skills.