Jakarta. "It takes a village to raise a child," says an African maxim. While all parents undoubtedly do their best for their children, we have to admit that, sometimes, it is not enough.
Joint efforts by the whole community are needed for their upbringing.
With this in mind, the Indonesian government initiated the National Foster Parents Movement in Semarang, Central Java, on May 29, 1996.
The movement, which later spread to other provinces, aimed to encourage well-to-do members of society to help fund elementary education of less fortunate children.
On August 20, 1996, a non-profit organization under the same name was established to organize the efforts.
Now, after 22 years, the organization is still active in helping Indonesian children to achieve better lives.
"We believe that all Indonesian children are entitled to nine years of elementary education, which is in line with the government's policies. And we're doing our part to achieve that mission," GNOTA chairwoman Gendis Siti Hatmanti said during an interview in Jakarta on Friday (18/05).
According to Gendis, since 1996, the organization has distributed 2.7 million donation packages to children all over Indonesia.
Each package, which costs a donor between Rp 250,000 ($17) and Rp 300,000 per child a year, usually contains books, stationery and a school uniform.
However, does it not overlap with the government's "Kartu Indonesia Pintar" (Smart Indonesia Card) program?
KIP was introduced by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for the very same purpose.
"There are still a lot of [less fortunate] children who don't have the card yet," said Yasinta Widowati, GNOTA secretary, said.
"We have access to Indonesia's remote areas and help to fill these gaps."
Children who receive GNOTA's donations are not enrolled for the KIP program.
"We work together with local school headmasters and community heads to identify children that need our help," said Gendis, who is a granddaughter of Indonesia's second president, Suharto.
Each donor may choose how many children he or she is willing to fund, their location and within what time span.
Currently, GNOTA has over 11,000 donors, mostly from Jakarta, funding the elementary education of 13,252 children from across the country.
"I think GNOTA's programs are very helpful," said Mbow, a teacher at State Elementary School Kampung Bali in Central Jakarta.
Fifty students of the school receive GNOTA donations.
"Most of them come from very poor families, living in Tanah Abang [Central Jakarta] shanties, in spaces measuring some 4 square meters," the 28-year-old teacher said.
"Their parents are usually street-peddlers selling cigarettes, tissues or bottled tea. With GNOTA's donations, these kids will feel encouraged to study harder and work more diligently for their future," Mbow said.
On Friday, Grand Indonesia shopping mall announced its collaboration with GNOTA to recruit donors for 1,000 children through the #1000AnakAsuhGrandIndonesia program.
"Children are the next leaders of our nation," said Dinia Widodo, public relations chief of the mall.
"In this good month [of Ramadan], we hope our customers would participate in this good program to help fund the education of Indonesian children."
In the program, the mall's loyal customers can donate points from their loyalty cards to GNOTA.
"Other customers can also donate any amount they want," Dinia said.
The program will run for one year, during which the organization will promote its programs in a booth on the upper ground of Grand Indonesia's west mall.
GNOTA's Other Programs
"We aim to engage more young people, especially millennials, in our programs," Gendis said.
GNOTA has a number of programs, including "Kelas Inspirasi" ("Inspiration Classes"), in which university students and young professionals talk about their career or study with schoolchildren from remote regions.
"Children living in remote villages usually aim to become either teachers or policemen, because these two professions are what they can encounter in their villages and what they consider to be cool," Gendis said. "We believe we need to broaden their horizons."
Another programs is "Travel of Hope" for groups of people to visit remote locations and donate for schoolchildren there.
"We'll create an itinerary for them and arrange everything for their travel. At the end of their travel, we'll arrange them to visit one of our affiliate schools and personally hand their donations," Yasinta said.
Among the groups that often participate in the program are members of Fortuga (Forum Tujuh Tiga), an alumni group of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB).
Yasinta and Gendis frequently visit the schools to monitor the programs.
"I'm always touched when I see the bright, happy faces of the schoolchildren we visit. For me it is priceless and worth all our hard work and efforts," Gendis said.