Connecting local responses around the world
"Forum Komunikasi Peduli Anak" is community initiative in Bandung that positions itself as a welcoming resource for children-at-risk. On 31 March 2015, 15 neighbours who were concerned about prostitution among the young decided to do something. They were parents themselves and felt a sense of duty to extend themselves to other children in their midst who lacked a sense of stability and were making poor choices. They held the belief that once someone becomes aware of a problem, not doing anything would make him or her complicit in sustaining the problem.
Usman the leader leaves his home unlocked and anyone seeking support or just a friendly face may wander in as they please. Together with other volunteers, he outreaches to the children, offering information on health, education and useful resources, a non-judgmental presence and of course his address. Since they began, the group has supported some 60 children and it continues to provide education and care to several. It also run seminars for their community on topics such as HIV, substance dependency and reproductive health.
When asked about the sustainability of such voluntary efforts, Usman replied that it was his belief that as long as there are needs to be met, a community will do the necessary. He had every confidence that the children who had benefitted will help others when they become in position to do so. A few in their late teens are already doing so and were present during our visit. It was a meaningful visit where we got to appreciate how a community identifies a shared concern, envisions a dream that is in the service of others and acts on it.
Our learning would not have been half as fruitful if not for Zuraidah, a local volunteer who was with us at the learning festival. Her questions elicited thoughtful responses from our hosts and gratitude from ourselves. Her sense of humour broke the ice and removed the barriers to meaningful communication. It felt like we were visiting old friends and there was not an awkward moment throughout. After the visit, Zuraidah commented that those who are affected by a problem are the very people who are best-placed to resolve it. "The best problem solvers are those who will have a better life when their problem is no more," she elaborated and added "FKPA also succeeds because they have a dream that would make their community a better place."
Zuraidah shared that 5 years ago, her neighbours and her participated in a dream building exercise for their neighboourhhod. She remembered that it was at Changi Cove and part of the process was to express one's personal dreams. She put down 3 dreams; a bigger home for her family, a job and a chance to further her education. Then on a scale of 1 to 5, she scored 1 for the likelihood of her dreams coming through. Nonetheless, she grudgingly penned the steps she would attempt in the direction of her dreams.
Today, Zuraidah holds a job as a Healthcare Assistant visiting older people at their home and she has been regularly attending training programmes that enable her to take on more complex tasks at work. A few months ago, she also moved into a bigger home with her husband and 4 children. The visit to FKPA reminded her of the "power of a shared dream." Life had gotten better for her family and her because she decided to work toward her dreams. "I go to work everyday like it is the most normal thing to do but 5 years ago, I could not even imagine attending an interview. It looked like such a difficult thing to do when I had so many problems to deal with. But when my husband and I began working on a shared dream, we found so many people along the way to help us."
Though having moved out of the Lengkok Bahru neighbourhood, Zuraidah remains a key volunteer in supporting her old neighbourhood's dreams. She is currently a bouncing board for a mother who wants to offer stay-home mothers sewing lessons and eventually small sewing jobs. "I joined a mutual help group to tackle my family problems but then I realised the more I got involved with the community, I became stronger and my life got better. People say I am helping others, but I know I am also helping myself."