German students offer hope to local orphanage

WORLD GAME: German students and orphans play football at Fajar Dua Orphanage in Klungkung regency. The hosts warmly received their foreign visitors and joined them for a game using the ball the guests gave them. (JP/Hyginus Hardoyo)

Hyginus Hardoyo , The Jakarta Post , Denpasar, 12/02/2008 10:44 AM  |  Bali

Muhammad Ridwan, an elementary student living at Fajar Dua Orphanage in Klungkung regency, enthusiastically raised his hand in response to an invitation by one of five German students visiting the orphanage to play football.

"Yes I will," exclaimed Ridwan after the students, three male and two female, gave the orphanage a foot ball. He immediately ran out of the room to a small field at the back area of the orphanage.

Together with the three men, the orphans played football happily. So friendly was the situation, there seemed to be no gap between the children and their foreign guests, they got along like old friends.

"Football is my hobby. I'm really... really glad that we have been given a ball," Ridwan, smiling in satisfaction, said after the game was over.

It's only a ball, maybe, but it gives happiness and contentment to the dozens of kids living at the Muslim orphanage.

The foot ball was just one thing donated by the German students. Items -- including rice, noodles, sugar, salt, cooking oil, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, schoolbooks, pens and card games -- totaling about Rp 1.66 million (about US$125) were given to the orphanage.

"What we bring is not much, but we hope that it will mean something to you," said Puji Handayani Prijanto, who is half German and half Javanese, speaking on behalf of the visitors.

The students, who work for the German charity organization "Education for Indonesia", are currently studying at the University of Udayana in Denpasar as part of a one semester program.

The organization, which was set up in 2007 with the aim of enabling the education of children from the poorest regions of Indonesia, is managed by 20 students from all over Germany.

Fajar Dua was one of four orphanages visited by the students on Monday. The three others were Baith-El Christian Orphanage in Klungkung, Yassika Muslim Orphanage in Amplapura, Karangasem, and Widya Asih VI Christian Orphanage in Bangli.

"We hope we can bring a smile to the faces of the children of the Panti Asuhan (orphanage)," Sam Moosariparambil, one of the students, said.

At Yassika in Amlapura the students gave 125 kilograms of rice, estimated to be enough to supply three meals a day to the 35 students for the next 10 days. Everybody at the orphanage was happy with the gifts.

Syahrul, a teacher and caretaker at the orphanage, warmly welcomed the German visitors. Everything he said, from his welcome to explaining the daily activities at the orphanage and the condition of the boarding houses, was in English.

He even asked one of his female students to say thank you for the donation in English. She did it, shy as she was.

The biggest donation, worth Rp 2.15 million, reflected the size of the Baith-El orphanage in Klungkung, which accommodates 194 students from kindergarten to senior high age groups.

The unique thing is that, even though it is a Christian orphanage, it also accommodates children of other religions, including Hindus and Muslims.

"About 72 students accommodated here are Catholic, with the rest being Protestant Christians, Hindus or Muslims," Edi Mansyur, one of the orphanage caretakers, said.

The German students gave 30 pairs of shoes along with 30 pairs of socks and 30 belts to students who usually go to school barefoot. The 30 children were selected in line with a list of children supplied by the orphanage.

Upon receiving the donations the situation became a bit noisy, as the children became ecstatic trying on their new, precious belongings for the first time. Most of the shoes fit their new owners, but a few had to exchange with each other to get the right size. One child, a kindergartner, found himself with shoes much larger than his feet, but he did not make comment or complain. He tried them on seriously, observed the situation carefully and wrapped his new belongings again in a plastic bag -- he'll surely grow in to them soon enough.

Meanwhile, far at the back, a group of children became involved in a quarrel over candies brought by their guests. A caretaker soon intervened, taking over distribution of the goodies.

"Me maam, I haven't got any," a girl said, jeering at a boy who refused to give her any when he was in possession of the goodies.

This was nothing compared to the gloom felt at the Widya Asih Orphanage in Bangli, where their supply of rice had run out. Until the German's arrived, little more than one kilogram, aside of the rice being cooked for dinner that day, remained.

"This is our normal condition. We live in constant shortage. Aside from the church, our lives depend on donors and those who happen who have struck fortune and want to share the luck with us," Rev. Gusti Suarjana, the orphanage's caretaker, said.

"We are very, very happy to receive the donation, otherwise we would have been forced to buy rice on credit from our suppliers at the market and pay them when we get a donation," he said.

"The suppliers have already trusted us; when we were unable to pay for the goods for about year, they did not force us to," Suarjana said.

Due to the hardship in managing the orphanage, Suarjana questioned the local administration's commitment to raising the welfare of its people. "We do not get a single cent in funding from the administration at the moment," he said, adding that his orphanage used to get assistance from the local social welfare office, but that ceased suddenly several years ago, without an explanation.

"What we do is actually helping the administration educate and raise neglected children," Suarjana said, explaining that the children accepted at his orphanage have various religious backgrounds - not only Christians, but also Muslims and Hindus.

To express their gratitude and to entertain the guests, the children sang several songs accompanied by the sounds of guitars, drums and an electronic music organ at the orphanage's church.