Back in 1996, meeting me at the airport on my arrival for my Youth Exchange year in Indonesia, was Bapak Tri Setijo Wibowo. Neither of us could have imagined then that within 2 years the Asian economic crisis, drought and political upheaval would have plunged his country and my adopted one into chaos and have thrown 6 million children out of school.
Hunger gnawing at their stomachs,
poverty has made school and other
secondary needs seem remote for
children begging at a busy Jakarta
street. ~ AF
In March 2001 I read in the Singapore Straits Times:
Every day, at the crack of dawn, when most people are still in bed, Ms Sri Iryaningsih (Ryan) and her identical twin sister Ms Sri Rosiyati (Rosi) are already up and about, driving their van to one of the city's most notorious slums. The 51-year-old siblings, popularly known as the twin ladies, have a long day ahead of them, and 1,550 children to educate in the 'Kartini * equal opportunity schools', which they have built..
From Monday to Saturday, they teach at seven different locations for two hours each in the North and West Jakarta slums. 'I can't tell one from the other, but I think they are the greatest thing that ever happened to my kids,' said Ms Tuminah, a housewife whose two daughters, aged four and seven, study at the schools. The classes are divided into four different age groups, from kindergarten to primary school. The curriculum includes reading, writing and mathematics.
What an incredible coincidence: Im called Kartini by many Indonesians who have difficulty with the American pronunciation of my name. Here was the project Id been looking for a way to help street children with some of the money I raised for Rotary projects in Indonesia. How could I find the Twin Ladies and help with their work?
Pak Tri (far right) immediately came to mind, and by June he and Rotary Club Cinere had located them and begun planning how to help the children who attend the Kartini Schools Under Freeway Bridges
who learn to read seated on cardboard,
cushioning them from rubble, or after climbing up to
"Garden of Learning".
Now we are working to create Training
Centers where these students can learn to become
Tailors/Seamstresses, Motorcycle Mechanics, and
Beauticians. We will also make it possible for
students with academic promise to attend Middle
School for three years.