Jakarta. "If you happen to pass this seller, help him by buying what he sells even if you don't need it," says someone on your social media timeline.
Your heart fills with pity, seeing an old man falling asleep at his street-food kiosk because he has no customers. Tears well up in your eyes as you see a picture of a disabled person going about the hustle and bustle of Jakarta just to sell some homemade mats.
The heart-wrenching posts are not only "poverty tourism" aimed at triggering an emotional response, but also an invitation for others to take real action. Despite the immeasurable number of hoaxes and hate speech on social media, there is a silver lining as people also use it to spread positive messages and inspire others to do more good.
A netizen who goes by the name Cak Budi makes use of his Instagram account not only to share such posts, but also his visits to those that are struggling to make ends meet.
This humble man from Malang, East Java, says doing charitable work is in his blood, as his parents instilled the habit in him.
"After I got married, my wife and I liked to go around the neighborhood, up to the city [Malang], to donate money and basic necessities to the needy. I also fixed some of their homes, which is something I didn't expect to be able to afford," he told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday (12/01).
The former truck driver for a courier service now travels from city to city with his wife, Lina, to help the poor. Cak Budi claims to have covered 75 percent of the cities in Java, and he recently left the island to also help people in Palu, Central Sulawesi, and Makassar, South Sulawesi.
He collects information about those in need through his Instagram account, where people share pictures and location details about where they encounter the needy. As he makes visits to the needy, he documents the events on Instagram, to garner more support and inspire others to do the same.
"For instance, if the needy persons are street vendors, we help them. We take them to their homes. If the house looks uninhabitable, we will repair it. Then we'll ask them if they have any wishes that hasn't come true yet, and we try to fulfill it. Sometimes we take them sightseeing or to eat out, like in a reality show. We try hard to make them happy," said the winner of e-commerce site Bukalapak's "Netizen Penggerak Perubahan" ("Changemaker Netizen") award.
Cak Budi focuses his charity work on the elderly poor, though he welcomes all others. He prioritizes helping mbah-mbah [a Javanese form of address for an old person] because there is not much they can do to make a living, especially when they have no family members to take care of them.
"I have a lot of respect for the working elderly. They should be at home, enjoying their retirement, yet there they are, on the street, trying to make some money by selling things," he said.
After each visit, Cak Budi does not leave without making sure that the mbah-mbah are taken care of, either by asking for nearby neighbors' help, or his friends and supporters to make occasional visits.
Cak Budi, who now runs a courier business as well as an online shop managed by his wife, admits that he enjoys remarkable support from his followers, both emotional and financial. There are local chapters dedicated to aid Cak Budi's work under the name Suisba (Suami Istri Bahagia) Peduli, or loosely translated as a community of happily married couples helping others.
"The members are not limited to married couples. It was just a name I came up with when I wanted to start this social project with my wife," he said.
Although Cak Budi's Instagram account has only been active for eight months, he has already caught the attention of local celebrities, proven by video testimonials given by actress Shireen Sungkar, dangdut singer Inul Daratista, and even rock star-turned-politician Pasha Ungu.
His viral posts have urged local governments to respond to the poverty problem.
"I remember Mbah Remi, an old woman who lived with no-one but chickens in a wooden shack and she had not bathed in three years. After I visited her, I was meaning to rebuild her house. However, the East Java Social Agency came by the next day and took her to their nursing home. Mbah Remi agreed, though most old people wouldn't, because she finally had someone to take care of her," Cak Budi said.
Better Than Begging
What is activism without youth? A youth-led organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate, Ketimbang Ngemis (Instead of Begging), is also making its rounds on the internet through its social media platform to support elderly residents who survive by doing poorly paying jobs.
Through the community's Instagram account, it shares uplifting stories of the elderly in various low-paying jobs who roam the streets of Jakarta.
Ketimbang Ngemis Jakarta spokeswoman Yona Luvina said the community has been established to support and appreciate poor elderly residents who work instead of begging for money.
"Our community wants to encourage more people to donate some of their money to support elderly workers on the streets in underpaid jobs," Yona told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
The original Ketimbang Ngemis was established in June 2015 by 20-year-old Rizki Wijaya from Yogyakarta.
It has already spread t0 60 cities across Indonesia, including Bekasi, Bandung, Palembang and Tangerang. It recruits members once every six months through several selection processes.
Besides encouraging people to help the less fortunate, the community also provides donations to the elderly poor.
Ketimbang Ngemis Jakarta, whose Instagram account currently has 63,700 followers, provides a bank account for those who want to donate money, which is distributed each month. However, Yona said the donations are distributed only after the community conducted a thorough survey.
"We want to make sure that the donations are given to those who need it. Therefore, our volunteers will be sent off to survey the real conditions of the target beneficiary," Yona said.
Both Cak Budi and Ketimbang Ngemis share the same priorities to focus on the elderly poor because there's nothing these people can do to make a living, especially when they have nobody to rely on.
Ketimbang Ngemis mostly helps those above 60 years of age, but younger people with disabilities also qualify for assistance.
Hundreds of followers have participated to find elderly workers on the streets who work in underpaid jobs. Yona said the volunteers often visit the areas where the targeted beneficiaries sell their products.
Ninety-three-year-old Haerudin, who sells homemade bread in front of the Kota Kasablanka shopping mall in South Jakarta, is one of the many elderly residents who have received a donation from the community.
Yona said that after netizens shared his condition on the community's Instagram account, all of his breads were sold out.
The same happened to Nenek Saidah, who sells emping – bite-sized crackers made of melinjo nuts – in front of the BKT jogging track in Duren Sawit, East Jakarta.
After the netizens posted her profile on Instagram, the community reposted her picture and not long after the followers saw it, they visited her and bought some of her products.
Besides serving as a means to garner support, Instagram also makes it easier for social activists to collaborate. Ketimbang Ngemis chapters occasionally work with Cak Budi to do the charity work.
"I know Ketimbang Ngemis members quite well, because some of us have worked together. When I went to Makassar recently, it was Ketimbang Ngemis Makassar who welcomed me and accompanied me to do the charity work. I normally ask them which people they target to help, and they're usually glad I come with them to help," Cak Budi said.
Both Ketimbang Ngemis and Cak Budi aim to inspire others to be active in helping the less fortunate. However, since Ketimbang Ngemis is dominated by younger members such as university students, they focus on encouraging people of their age to be more aware of their surroundings.
"I hope that our community can inspire the younger generations to contribute more to society," Cak Budi said.