Essential workers receive food boxes from a donator in Jakarta. (JG Photo)

From Breaking Piggy Bank to Making Hazmat Suits: Indonesian Goodwill Unstoppable During Pandemic


APRIL 22, 2020

Jakarta. When the government finally announced the first coronavirus cases in Indonesia in early March, people could be excused for turning inward and thinking about their own safety. Fearing a Wuhan-style lockdown, those who could afford it started panic-buying everything, from food to hand sanitizers and surgical masks.

But since then, even when the pandemic has not shown any sign of slowing down, Indonesians have been showing more empathy toward each other and many times surprised those in need with generous acts of goodwill. 


The number of coronavirus cases in the country has been climbing at a rate of 10 percent per day. Sadly, the number of people losing their jobs due to the pandemic has been increasing at nearly the same rate. 

According to data from the Manpower Ministry, a total of 1.5 million workers have already lost their jobs in the past two months.

In addition, half a million people who used to find employment in Indonesia's large informal sector have lost all of their income and are now at risk of falling into absolute poverty.

Meanwhile, on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus, doctors and nurses risk being exposed to the virus as the country's stock of personal protective equipment (PPE), including hazmat suits and surgical masks, is quickly being depleted.

The debilitating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have, fortunately, also moved the heart of many Indonesians to help those in need, especially the poor and vulnerable.

Food and Daily Staples for the Needy

Amelia Syofyan, a 27-year-old office worker from Petamburan, Central Jakarta, started giving away box lunches and "care packages" filled with daily supplies during her lunch break this week. 

"Every day I see these people who are really struggling because of this pandemic. Many of them are actually essential workers, motorcycle taxi drivers, warung owners," she told the Jakarta Globe.

"Some of us have the privilege of staying at home and might even like it. But these people can't work from home, what they need is help," Amelia said.

Maryana Cahyaningsih, a 33-year-old entrepreneur from Bumiayu near Brebes, Central Java, has also been donating food boxes near where she lives. 

"Everyone has been hit by this pandemic, especially economically. I've already distributed 60 food boxes in just a few days," she said.

Ratri, a 23-year-old office worker from Jakarta, coordinated with her friends to donate daily food rations to poor communities in Tangerang, one of the capital's satellite cities. Her team has shared more than 50 bags in less than a week.

"Most importantly, we want people to have more empathy. People are angry with the government, but they're also angry at other people who disobey the physical distancing rules. What we have to realize is that not everyone has the privilege to stay at home or work from home," Ratri said.

Piggy Bank for PPE

Ten-year-old Mochammad Hafidh had been putting Rp 1,000 (less than 10 cents) in his piggy bank every day in the past nine months. When the pandemic hit, he decided to use the money he'd saved to buy PPE for medical workers in Bandung, West Java, where he lives.

"I want to protect the medical workers," the boy said in a video shared the Dayeuh Kolot Police in Bandung on April 16.

"The money was for his sister's wedding, but after he saw on TV that hospitals are running out of PPE, he decided to use his savings to buy them some," Hafidh's mother said in the video.

Hafidh gave a total of Rp 453,300 to the police station, which then gave the money to the West Java Covid-19 Task Force.

As a reward, Task Force Head Ridwan Kamil, who is also the West Java Governor, gave Hafidh a business capital assistance and a relief package of daily supplies.

From Fashion to PPE

Karlin Welyana, the co-owner of fashion studio Ai'telier in Jakarta, has also been donating PPE to hospitals since early April.

"I stopped producing next season's collection and started making hazmat suits as soon as I found out medical workers were running out of PPE," Karlin told the Jakarta Globe.

The price of PPE had gone through the roof – if you could still find one for sale, that some doctors and nurses started wearing plastic raincoats.

Karlin did a fundraiser to produce her PPE. According to her, one hazmat suit costs as little as Rp 50,000 ($4). 

"Many companies are laying off employees or cutting their salaries. Making PPE will not only help medical workers but also keep our staff employed," she said.

So far, Ai'telier has produced 800 PPE units for 12 hospitals in Indonesia, including Blambangan Hospital in East Java, Sanglah Hospital in Bali, Puri Husada Hospital in Yogyakarta, dr. T. C. Hillers Hospital in East Nusa Tenggara, Gatot Subroto Hospital in Jakarta and the Athletes' Village Covid-19 hospital, also in Jakarta.

Karlin said she only uses tried and tested materials for her PPE to make sure they are up to standard.

Free Car Rentals

Kika Syafii, who owns a car rental business in Bekasi, has been allowing the cars in his fleet to be used for errands to help Covid-19 patients or medical workers for free under one condition, the people who rent the cars must also hire his drivers.

"I was thinking of ways for my employees to retain some of their income, which has fallen dramatically during this pandemic. I want to give them hope," Kika told the Jakarta Globe.

The Cipendawa Bus owner has been renting the cars for free for the past two weeks. So far, he's used 15 cars for the free service. Kika said he will continue doing it for as long as the pandemic lasts.

"The cars have been used to send personal protective equipment, medical equipment and food supplies," Kika said.

Kika had some previous experience helping out with disaster recovery efforts, having offered similar assistance after major earthquakes in Yogyakarta, Cianjur, Padang and Lombok, and after the Palu tsunami in 2018.