When Gregorius Endrawan was in his last year at senior high school in East Jakarta four years ago, he didn't know if he would be able to go on to university — even if he passed his exams with flying colors. His parents separated when he was a young child. Since then, his mother has had to do odd jobs with her daily income amounting to roughly 50,000 rupiah (about US$6). Financial constraints meant his ambition of becoming an auditor looked like being a pipe dream. However, one day he was introduced to someone from the socioeconomic development unit at St. Joseph’s Parish in East Jakarta who told him about education programs launched by the parish in 2013. “He told about its Ayo Sekolah
[let’s attend school] program and Ayo Kuliah
[let’s attend university] program,” he said.
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The schemes involve local Catholics making regular donations to a parish fund which is invested in helping poor youngsters
like Endrawan get a decent education. Collectively, they are known as ASAK schemes. With help from the Ayo Kuliah program, Endrawan enrolled in the Kalbis Institute, a local higher education
institution, in 2015 to study economic accounting. “Now I’m in my fourth year,” the 22-year-old said, adding that his tuition fees have been covered by the parish program. To Endrawan, who still lives at home with his mother, the Ayo Kuliah program has been a true blessing. “It helps people like me who cannot afford university fees. I can’t even express in words how grateful I am.” Endrawan is among 5,918 Catholics in Jakarta Archdiocese
benefiting from the two ASAK programs initiated by Yanto Jayadi Wibisono, a Catholic layman. More are starting to reap the benefits elsewhere in Indonesia. Gregorius Endrawan and his mother at home in East Jakarta. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com) The work of the Holy Spirit
The idea for the initiatives came to Wibisono several years ago while attending Mass at St. Vincent a Paulo Chapel in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The inspiration came from God,” he said. In 1991, after contacting some friends who studied with him at university in Bandung, West Java, he formed the Friendship and Humanity Community in which he and his friends provided money to help children from poor families attend school. In 2006, when his parish church — St. Thomas the Apostle — in West Jakarta was preparing to mark its 50th anniversary and the archdiocese’s 200th anniversary celebrations, he was asked by parish officials to share some ideas. “I told them about the Ayo Sekolah program and they agreed to adopt it about eight months later,” he said. The idea was actually based on a community charity program, he added. When the parish finally launched the Ayo Sekolah school scheme in June 2007, money was provided for 60 impoverished children to attend schools. Two years later, the parish launched Ayo Kuliah university program, which initially only involved five teenagers. “Ayo Kuliah began after I met a disabled boy during a visit to poor families. He said he wanted to study at university after graduating from senior high school, but said that was unlikely because of a lack of money,” said the 52-year-old father of two. The schemes have since grown and spread across the archdiocese. Presently, 61 out of 66 parishes and two mission stations run ASAK programs. Two more parishes will soon launch them. Meanwhile, some parishes in Tanjungkarang Diocese in Lampung province and in Pontianak Archdiocese in West Kalimantan have begun introducing similar schemes. “It’s the work of the Holy Spirit. All I can do is to bow down and obey,” said Wibisono. Donations and fundraising activities
Once a parish launches the schemes, it’s usually responsible for financing them by relying on donations from its own parishioners. In some cases, a rich parish can assist others that are struggling because of a lack of donors. More than 3,500 Catholic donors regularly donate money to the programs, which spend billions of rupiah annually. “They are worthwhile causes. As a Catholic, and as long as I’m capable financially, I will donate,” said Ivo Aryanto from St. Bartholomew’s Parish in Bekasi, West Java. Programs are also supported by fundraising activities. Aryanto’s parish recently held a concert to raise money for the scheme, which was launched there in 2010. The donors’ generosity has brought hope to Endrawan’s mother, Veronika, who says she’s eternally grateful to the generous donors who have offered her son the chance of having a better future. “Without them my son wouldn’t have been able to further his studies.” For Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, the ASAK programs — which now boast more than 2,500 alumni — have helped boost “a spirit of compassion” among Catholics. “I hope other parishes, which haven’t yet adopted this compassion through the ASAK programs, will do so soon," he said.