Saturday, April 25, 2009

Batam for A Different Cause

Last time I went to Batam, I was heading to a beautiful resort for a social gathering. Never crossed my mind, that I would go to Batam again for more 'social' purpose.

Accompanied by my sleepyhead, this morning I left home at 6 to Harbourfront. It was all dark outside but I was supposed to take the 7.40am ferry to Batam to do some site inspection work with my association fellows for our planned charity work in the coming October. Sleep deprived, I think I spent almost the entire time on the boat with eyes closed.

About one and a half hour later, fooled by the crazy cab management in Batam's ferry terminal, we generously spent Rp. 50,000 to reach the first orphanage we had to visit. The Rp. 50, 000 was only for a 15 minutes drive, by the way! Amazingly, we reached Batam 2 hours earlier than we expected so we did what we needed to do 2 hours earlier.

First Orphanage: Daruul Aitam

This orphanage has been around for about 5 years and takes care 28 abandoned children ranging from 1 year old to 16 years old. It is run by Indonesian muslim couple. This orphanage is under the Daruul Aitam Batam organization's umbrella. They also run their own kindergarten school nearby. The children in the orphanage are not opened for adoption. They will take care of them until they finish high school and start earn money on their own. The orphanage ensures a fixed activities for the kids: school, praying, studying, etc. Their curfew is at 10pm and they really keep eye on the male and female relationships in the house. Boys sleep on the second floor and the girls sleep on the first floor. They have a gate in the stairways and lock it at night.

Darul Aitam Orphanage, Batam.

List of the children in the foster home.

Jaja - doing his Bahasa Indonesia homework on the floor.

Can't recall the left girl's name but the other little one on the right is called Atia.

The Kindergarten.

Parents waiting for their children outside the Kindergarten.

Inside the class room.

The teacher's son.

Inside the classroom, I saw a boy sitting in a desk by his own. The rests were sitting with friends in four. When I saw him working on his coloring paper alone, I confidently asked the teacher who was standing next to him. "So, why is he sitting alone here? You are punishing him, aren't you?" Then the teacher startled for a second and replied me with laughter. "No, no. This is my desk actually. He is my son." "Oh, I see." SMART GIRL!

During my visit in the kindergarten, I encountered a very interesting discovery. When I saw the kids sitting and playing play-doh outside when they waiting for their class, I noticed a different kid. A Chinese-looked kid. I often looked at him but I kept saying to myself I was wrong. I thought there is no way a Chinese kid could be in such a strong Muslim environment.

The little Chinese guy in the neighborhood.

Later on, the orphanage leader's wife told me that this little guy is a Chinese descent from Palembang. His father left his Mom. His Mom gave the kid to the orphanage when he was only 2 days old. They took him. They named him. He is called Abdul Taufiq Rohim. He is taught to be a Muslim like the rests.

My heart was pounding when I heard her story. I kept patting his head, but this shy little guy kept looking down. Then he shouted to his teacher, "Hungry!" Oh crap! I didn't bring any snacks nor sweets today. Then, I remembered a chocolate sandwich I bought from 7/11 this morning for my breakfast. I haven't eaten it so I gave it to Abdul Rohim. He didn't reacted. The other kid next to him rudely grabbed the sandwich from my hand like a black monkey from Bali. Apparently this rude kiddo is the orphanage leader's very own son. I grabbed the sandwich back and told him, "Give me back the sandwich. I will cut this to all of you! You all are getting a bit." I passed a small chuck to that monkey kid and of course, I gave the biggest chunk to the Chinese kid. I have all the reasons to do so.

Only when I got back to the leader's office in the orphanage, I realized about Abdul Rohim's photo in the children list. No wonder, early this morning I sort of noticed a fair skinned with small eyes boy's photo in the children list on the wall. Initially I didn't pay attention much about that particular photo until I met Abdul Rohim. What a poor little guy! How come you ended up there, darling?

After the short visit to this orphanage and kindergarten, the leader drove us to the main road using his humble car and suggested us to take the public transportation instead of cab to get to the second orphanage nearby. It would only cost Rp. 2,000 per person he said. I was hesitating and was about to voice TAXI TAXI TAXI to my fellows. However, my two other fellows from the association already looked so enthusiastic to try the notorious Indonesian public transportation so there I was, an obvious Chinese material in a Mikrolet. Once, they left the car's door opened whilst were were cruising the highway. The car had a natural air conditioning system and it joyfully played Dangdut all the time. Lord, mercy me! Then I turned my head to my pals and told them, "I really think we should take cab after this."

Second Orphanage: Miftahul Ulum

The orphanage has been around since 2002 and started with 10 children. Now it takes care about 25 children ranging from 7 to 16 years old. They said they don't accept babies as they need more attention and funding to take care babies. The place was incredibly dirty and not organized. There is no clear system to manage the kids. Boys and girls are pretty much mixed. No curfew. No separate floors for their rooms. No fixed rules or activities for the kids. The leader who runs the orphanage deeply involves in politics and is also a legislative representative of the area. He also just recently participated in the General Election. How wonderful is that!

Miftahul Ulum Orphanage, Batam.

I was actually very surprised when I saw the second orphanage's building from outside. They have two cars, motorcycles and computers. My first thinking once I got to the place was, "This place surely doesn't need any help from us anymore. No point wasting much time here." Lucky, we didn't have to hang around there for long.

We arrived to this orphanage 2 hours earlier so we only managed to speak to the leader's wife who didn't leave pretty good impression to us. The leader himself was away and could not be reached by phone. The orphanage has a serious hygiene problem. Flies were literally everywhere. Floors were so dirty. Kids look not so taken care of. They have problem with sanitation and water system. Once kids did not bathe for two days as there were no water in the house. I didn't bother to take picture of the kids.

I declined to check on their third floor as I witnessed the staircases were all brown and sticky and we were barefoot. We left our shoes outside the house. My pals went up and I just stood there in the second floor waiting for them. Suddenly, I wanted to go home as I felt the strong urge to bathe with a lot of antiseptic and body scrubs. I couldn't wait to get into the cab and wipe my hands and feet. I felt so dirty after my visit in the second orphanage. Geez!

For such a big 'beautiful' house with only 25 pretty 'grown up' kids, this place indeed left no good impression to us at all. This one can go from the charity list already!

Lastly, we decided to drop these two orphanages from the donation list. We had a 'not-so-good' feeling with the first orphanage's leader who seems to have strong potential to be blinded with almighty hard cash. And, we felt that the second orphanage seems already well-sufficient without any help from us. No question, we need to explore more orphanages in the area and find the right one before we pour our money to any institution! Our visit today was not that fruitful but at least we learned something new.

12 o'clock in Batam means 1pm Singapore time. It was lunch time already. It was hot. We were hungry so we took a cab and went to a mall near the ferry terminal. We had lunch and took a quick walk around the mall then called the inspection visit a day. We went back to Singapore. Finally, home.

OK, the real site visit formal report is waiting now. Oh, no!

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