Yayasan Puspita isn’t hard to find. Its pink gate and banner decked out in gumball-colored letters are hard to miss, and everyone in the neighborhood of Duren Sawit in East Jakarta is happy to point visitors in the right direction. For some finding this children’s crisis center can mean the start of a better life.
Yayasan Puspita, or “The Flower Foundation,” has been helping Jakarta’s children in crisis since 1997. Located in a two-story house on a narrow road, Puspita isn’t your cookie-cutter foundation. It doesn’t solely focus on street children or runaways, like some other foundations. Instead, its purpose is to simply help children develop their talents — like a flower in bloom, if you will.
Puspita thrives on the passion of its volunteers, in part because some of them are also Puspita residents.
William Ignatius Igorettob, known to his friends as Willy, goes to college on the weekends, works full-time at an international design company during the week and volunteers teaching graphic design to his Puspita peers whenever he has a free moment.
“My mother abandoned me when I was a baby, and I’ve never known my real father,” says Willy, who was born out of wedlock in Ambon 21 years ago.
Willy’s father left his mother under threat from his family that he would lose his inheritance for marrying her, a non-Chinese woman. Willy’s mother was unable to care for him and his three brothers on her own, and eventually put them under foster care with different neighbors. Willy’s step-parents passed away before he completed junior high school.
“When I was in junior high my stepfather died, so a friend of my father’s took me to Jakarta. He hid me in a bag while we traveled there by boat. But then instead of sending me to school, he put me to work.”
Willy, who desperately wanted to go to school, ran away from his father’s friend. A few weeks later he showed up at the pink gates of Puspita and was taken in by founder Ali Qohar, known to the children there as Pak Aang.
“As soon as I entered Puspita, I learned so many skills, but I realized that my main passion was computers, and in particular graphic design,” Willy says. “Because of Pak Aang’s support I managed to enroll at Mercu Buana University and major in graphic design.”
Grateful for the head start given to him by Puspita, Willy now tries to give back by tutoring the children there whenever he can. But you don’t have to be a former resident to volunteer at Puspita — the center is always looking for volunteers from all walks of life.
“For example, if you’re a journalist and you’d like to come and talk about your job, you’re welcome to do that,” Pak Aang says. “I use my connections to invite people to come. This is also a form of volunteering, and we are always very open to everyone. In the past, famous people, composers like Marusya Nainggolan and film directors like Riri Reza, have come to teach the children about what they do.”
Having enjoyed such success in Jakarta, the foundation is now expanding to Bogor, where it plans to open a 180-student boarding house in Pasir Angin, Cipayung. The boarding house, built on a donated 1.8-hectare block, is scheduled for inauguration on Sept. 25.
“Thanks to donations from the New Zealand Embassy it was possible for us to build a house on the donated land,” Aang says. “Right now we are looking for other donors to help us make possible the other projects we have in mind.”
Donations from other generous individuals and companies have paid not only for accommodation, but also scholarships and activities to develop the children’s skills.
Outside of school hours, the foundation facilitates various activities such as lessons in computing, cooking, painting and learning English. They are always looking for regular volunteers to come and help run the classes.
“At the moment we really need English teachers,” Aang says. “But we always need people who can come to develop the children and foster their talents. We are trying to get a range of volunteers who can come out and teach the kids any number of activities.”
Tessa Piper, a long-term resident of Jakarta, has been a regular volunteer at Puspita since 2007. She says that the children there learn valuable lessons both inside and outside the classroom.
“At Puspita, children benefit not only from a formal education at school but also from an invaluable informal education that nurtures their talents and interests, encourages them to be curious and builds their self esteem, while also instilling a value system that is tolerant and respectful of others,” she says. “This holistic approach to education, and the impressive caliber and commitment of the volunteers, is what makes Puspita such a remarkable institution.”
Jl. Tegal Amba No. 7
Duren Sawit, East Jakarta
Tel. 021 862 8551