Meeting needs for youth in Indonesia – My day with YUM

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On July 17, I was able to visit the first, and still the only, library provided by Yayasan Usaha Mulia, or YUM, in the community of Cipanas, Indonesia. The families there consist of farmers, labor workers, and vegetable sellers at the markets.

When not in school, local youth have the opportunity to get tutored and participate in activities at the library like educational games, creative arts & crafts, and movies – when I arrived the children were making school schedules to take home. These included coloring, drawing, and cutting out shapes to make it their own while learning the days of the week.  These youth were ages 6-12. The older kids were working on the computers, and the younger ones were drawing pictures. It was fun to see how each group of younger children had a general theme they decided to draw – one group drawing a home and another drawing elephants and fish. The library was colorful, encouraging creativity, safety, with the walls filled with books, dictionaries, novels, and more. I also saw the “boxes of books” which is part of the mobile library program for other communities’ schools. YUM’s goal is to add more schools to its current 2 where it provides books. These are the first “libraries” in these communities.

I asked the librarian what he did before working at this one, and he said he was a teacher at the government schools. He said the schools lacked expression and creativity for the children, so when he was introduced to the opportunity at YUM, he was happy to join.

After, I went on to see the vocational training program, the organic gardens, and meet the community. I met YUM’s bookkeeper. When he was in 4th grade he was orphaned, so he was brought to YUM’s center. He stayed in YUM’s program and now works for the organization. I asked him to describe YUM and he said, “a place where you are happy.” The first program I saw that day was the sewing class. This program teaches young adults to make clothes, bags, and using recycled scraps for creative products. I sat down with one of the students, a young man who hoped to one day become a tailor and design his own clothes.  I then spoke with another young woman named Aji who was 16 and in her 3rd year of senior high school. I asked her why she took sewing class, and she said because she could make more friends and she wanted to be a professional designer. All of the youth explained to me when they are not in school they are usually helping the family or working. The classes had not only young women, but also a few young men working just as hard to develop skills for a career after.

Next, I sat in on the computer-training course. The 2 trainers were former students of the class themselves. The girl trainer explained to me she wanted to go to school, but after elementary her parents could not pay. YUM helped pay for her costs and now she loves math, hopes to share her knowledge, and to attend university to be a chemical engineer. She was an extremely bright and mature young woman still in high school. Aris, from YUM, explained to me 75% of youth going through the vocational training program receive jobs. If they don’t get a job, local youth marry young or become a domestic or labor workers.

Finally, the staff took me to visit the local community as well as explore the organic gardens planted by local schools and students. See the pictures in the slide show – it was such an incredible and inspiring experience to not only meet the children of Cipanas, but also to get to know the staff behind the impact-organization, YUM.

How to turn trash into jobs, education, and laptop bags – Day with XS

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On July 20, I was able to visit XS Project, an organization turning trash into quality products, creating jobs, and providing educational scholarships.

I arrived to the office and met staff doing everything from sorting and cleaning loads of trash, unused car seat covers, and old marketing banners, to working on product development, and sewing the products. I sat down with one of the sewers, and he explained he had been with XS since 2005. What brought him here? He said a friend was working at XS. He used to make seat covers for airplanes, but now he can make products from recycled products. At the time, the team was putting together very cool laptop cases created from a combination of seat covers and discarded marketing banners.

I then met the head of product design and the head of finance.  The head of finance explained, XS is “not just cleaning the environment, but it is creating jobs for those who need it. XS is also providing education scholarships – it’s like 3-in-1.” The head of product design explained that he was first introduced to XS in college and thought it would be a great challenge to create products out of recycled material.

After meeting the staff and watching the process of turning recycled material into new goods, Retno and I went to visit the community where it all starts – the trash pickers. When we arrived the kids were so excited and everyone came out to say hi and play. Retno brought a box of pencils and crayons gathered from other schools, and the children all dove in to grab their handfuls. We stopped to speak with every family and to hear their current needs and issues. The families live on this land and work for a “lampak” which is the boss of that trash picker community.

I asked the kids what they studied and they all shouted out, “math, Bahasa (Indonesian), Ingrish (English), and Quran reading!” I then asked a few what they wanted to be when they grow up – and 2 young girls said a chef and teacher. Another young girl said a doctor. XS provides funding for the children’s schooling directly to the school and follows up with the school and teachers to see how their progress is. Retno encouraged the moms to tell their kids to go to class. In this community, the parents’ generation mostly did not attend school so this is a new opportunity for their children.