July 23, I met with Rumah Cemara, an organization that played in the Homeless World Cup 2011 representing Indonesia. Immediately I knew it was not an organization like others – every person I met was not only laid back, cool, and “against the grain”… every person I spoke with was inspiring and open to share the challenges and experiences faced throughout life.
What type of challenges and experiences am I writing about? Rumah Cemara was created to increase the quality of life for former drug users with HIV/AIDS, provide care and social support, treatment, and decreasing discrimination in the community through outreach. When I walked in I could feel the openness and lack of hierarchy within the organization and its members. Everyone mingled with everyone; there was no restrictive bureaucracy – just a safe, nurturing, and growing environment.
When touring the organization, it was great to see the Homeless World Cup 2011 trophies for “Best New Team” and “6th in Tournament”. After taking a tour, I sat down with Ginan, the founder, and he explained that being a part of Homeless World Cup was a life-changing experience. He never dreamed that “people like us can represent our country in a world class tournament.” He said that the tournament is not just a game, it’s about change within yourself. When I spoke with another player, who played as a defender in the tournament, he said he loved being able to play soccer with people from all over the world. He had never met people from those countries before, and he said meeting them was exciting. What was his favorite part about the tournament? “That people like ‘us’ can represent the name of our country.” When he returned, he felt very excited and proud, especially when returning to Bandung. People were cheering for the team at the airport, and that day “I was crying… crying because I felt so proud.”
Rumah Cemara provides these marginalized youth an opportunity to have a safe environment, a family, and a trusting network to connect with, learn from, and grow with. Why do they do football/soccer programs? Ginan and staff say because It is an effective way to spread the message of Rumah Cemara and to bridge the gap with the local community, decreasing stigma and discrimination. Rumah Cemara is a place to be free for anyone and everyone – a place to be themselves. Rumah Cemara hopes that Indonesia can be a place without discrimination.