Rags to Riches – The Rewards of Giving Back to Your Community

A volunteer, Mrs.Gilly Weaver is teaching English

A volunteer, Mrs.Gilly Weaver is teaching English

Remaja Masa Depan means “Young people’s future”. The story of the yayasan has evolved in an almost fairytale way – it is a “rags to riches” story, with the riches being the home so many street kids have found there and an education which they could never have dreamt of.

Pak Firdaus, the founder of Remaja Masa Depan, has brought all this about with his perseverance against the odds and his determination to give back to his own community after he achieved success himself.

Born into a very poor family,Pak Firdaus led the life of a street kid, selling and scavenging whatever he could find to help his parents and siblings survive. He showed such determination from an early age that he managed to also keep himself at school and later won a scholarship to the UK to complete a degree in social work.

On returning to Indonesia, after working for Pelita Ilmu Foundation, he decided the time was right to make his dream of shelter and education for the disadvantaged children in his local community of Tebet come true.

In his own inimitable style, Pak Firdaus set about encouraging the local children to come to his first makeshift school by visiting railway stations, bus station, and crossroads to find the street kids in need of food and shelter. He knows instinctively and from his own experiences where to find those in need and how to recognize them. He has such a gentle nature that all children have confidence and trust him.

The rest is history, as they say, and now in 2014 he has a flourishing yayasan that has been running for nearly 15 years. For several years he has been saving to buy a larger building for the orphanage he and his wife Ibu Maryamah also run; this currently provides a home for nearly 45 children ranging in age from 1 to 18 years. Recently he found the perfect place just along the road from the existing school and they will soon move in and have all the space they need.

Pak Firdaus is always making improvements as he can afford them. A recent improvement to Remaja Masa Depan has been a well-designed computer room in the main school building which is continuously in use by staff and students and children from the orphanage.

My involvement has been as ANZA Social Welfare coordinator of the project, delivering our monthly contribution to RMD’s running costs. I also visit every Friday afternoon to teach in part of a tutorial program.

This program is designed to get students through their Grade 6 and Grade 9 national tests. If they can pass these they are able to benefit from free, further high school education. There are currently over a hundred students in this program studying English, Maths, Science and Bahasa Indonesia as part of the course, and they attend Remaja Masa Depan on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Attendance at these classes is very high and the students are very motivated and keen to learn, and a real delight to teach.

We have many lively discussions on topics ranging from Indonesia’s place in the world to its imports and exports. They are very proud to be Indonesian and love to talk about their country, but they also enjoy hearing about other parts of the world. They loved meeting my friend Emelie from Sweden recently and asked lots of questions about the people, their food and culture. They were in peels of delight when she spoke to them in Swedish. We have many conversations about Australia and New Zealand and I love to tease them about ‘tidak macet’ over there.

I would encourage anyone with a few spare hours in the week to think seriously about volunteering to teach in or visit RMD one. It is so rewarding to meet these young people with such positive attitudes to life and learning. The warm welcome received each week makes it all worthwhile – even after the time spent in traffic getting there. The students so appreciate having English speakers come to visit and it really is the case that the rewards go both ways.

Gilly Weaver
Co-Director, ANZA Social Welfare