Home of Pro Life teaches street children discipline through daily activities (Photo: Ryan Dagur)
Jakarta has literally thousands of dispossessed children, living day and night on its streets. Begging at traffic lights, singing in buses or on trains, or working as petty thieves and bag snatchers is as much as most of them can hope for in life.
But a few dozen are lucky enough to stay at the Home for Pro-Life, where they get decent accommodation, food to eat, a sense of self-esteem and discipline through daily activities and, perhaps best of all, an education.
“I’ve found a family here and it has opened my eyes to a better future,” says Silvester Defianus Gea. A long-time resident at the home, he has just finished high school and says: “I am optimistic that I can get a job and my life will not be wasted on the street any more.”
For all this, Silvester and the others have to thank the three men they call “the big brothers.”
Apriyadi Christophel, a 47-year-old Catholic activist, opened the home in 2007. Inspired by Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, it was his aim to help children who have been victims of violence, illness or broken homes.
Christophel has been working with street children since 1996. "When someone was sick and lying in the street, I used to take them to the hospital and try to get them free treatment," he says.
Fransiskus Xaverius Andreanto and Aventinus Gea, the other two “big brothers,” now work with him as full-time managers of the center.
Located in Matraman to the east of the city, it has provided a home for over one hundred children. Currently it houses 15 boys and two girls.
Christophel firmly believes that it is not enough to simply provide food and shelter; education is vital. “Education is what frees them from the difficulties of life,” he says.
One of the residents is now at university, which fills the managers with justifiable pride. But it has not always been this way. In the first two years after opening, the children had to pay their own school fees, by whatever means they could.
As a result, many of them were coming home late at night after working all day, too exhausted to study. Some started drifting back onto the streets.
So the team focused its efforts on making it as easy as possible for them to go to school. With their encouragement, the children are now regular schoolgoers.
This is all achieved on a shoestring budget of Rp 15 million ($1,600) a month for rent, food, education and other needs.
The team has tried to get government funding. “As the community is not a legal entity, we’ll probably never get it,” says Fransiskus Xaverius. “But there are many good friends who have been donors, and I believe God is always there to help our work.”
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