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Catholic women lend Indonesian workers a helping hand

Laborers struggle to care for their children while working long hours, that's where free day care comes in

Catholic women lend Indonesian workers a helping hand

Mediatrix, who manages the centre, distributes snacks to children. ( photo)

When Nani Purwoko visited a barely-used shelter in Tangerang, Indonesia, she saw great possibilities. How, she thought, could the Catholic Women of the Republic of Indonesia, a group she chaired, help?

The shelter was very simple with limited facilities but offered a small day care service to local laborers. "Seeing the situation, she thought that improving this element could be the answer" said Bernadeth Netty Lau, a member of the women's group.

After getting support from the archdiocese, the organization established Indriasana Day Care Centre in Keroncong village on March 1, 1998. They initially took care of about a dozen children.

The number of children increased significantly following its establishment. "A few years later, we bought a house in Kuta Jaya Village and established another center there," Lau said.

Kuta Jaya is located in an industrial area which means there are a lot of children needing care. Meanwhile, the old center had much smaller numbers.

"So we decided to close the old center last year and began to centralize activities in the new one," she said.

According to Lau, who oversees the center, seven caregivers now take care of 74 children aged between 18 months and nine years in the two-story house on a 500 square-meter plot.

"Many parents are laborers or work washing clothes. In general, their wage is lower than regional minimum wage," she said.

Regional minimum wages are different from one province to another. Bantan Province set its minimum wage at 1.7 million rupiah (about US$135) per month. Nevertheless, the center welcomes parents who want to pay monthly fees.

"Some pay monthly fees between 150,000 and 200,000 rupiah for each child. But we don’t charge those who cannot afford it," Lau said. In fact, even the fees charged are not enough to pay for each child's daily necessities.

The operating cost is between 25 and 30 million rupiah per month, she said. The Jakarta unit of the Catholic women group often receives both material and financial aid from several groups and communities.

"We provide them with food, milk, vitamins, snacks and fruit every day. We also have a doctor who visits the center twice a month," she added.

The group is pleased with the way the project turned out. "Workers should get assistance. In Jakarta it has done something right by opening the service," said Theresia Nirmaya, who helps coordinate the center.

"At least four groups visit the center each month," she said. 

Children pose for a photo together with a caregiver at the centre. ( photo)


Self-discipline and self-reliance

Mediatrix, who manages the center, explained that she and other caregivers help to develop a sense of self-discipline and self-reliance among the 35 boys and 39 girls.

Out of the total, 36 don’t go to school and the rest attend nearby elementary schools. They come from different religious backgrounds including Catholicism, Islam and Protestantism.

"We guide and teach them. Thank God, they listen to us," said the woman who like many Indonesians only goes by one name, said. "For example, we tell them to wash before having meals. We also teach them to throw garbage in dustbins. Such small things can grow their awareness."

For self-reliance, the children are taught to bathe themselves. "They couldn’t do it at home before. That’s why many parents feel proud to see such a change in their children," she added.

The center opens at 6:30 a.m. six days a week and offers a full program of games, movies and singing sessions before their parents pick them up in the afternoon.

Nanik Istiarni, a 38-year-old mother of twins, acknowledged that the service is cheap and good quality.

"My three year-old daughters are are given all they need. Even a doctor regularly comes. I would not be able to afford it as I’m only a laborer at a shoe factory," said the Muslim woman, whose twins have been attending the center since September 2015.

"The service really helps me. It’s very expensive for me to pay for a babysitter but here I only pay 400,000 rupiah for my girls and they get everything," said the divorcee, whose monthly wage is less than three million rupiah.

"Now I feel my children are safe. I can go to work. I believe in this center," she said.

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