The legendary Harley-Davidson(JG Photo/Antony Sutton)

Bikers Go the Whole HOG for Kids

JANUARY 07, 2015

Anybody who has spent time in Jakarta will have seen them around. Clad in leather jackets, boots and bandanas, usually with a beer in hand, the Harley boys are a familiar sight. But unlike their “brothers” in some other countries, these guys are not into hell raising and kicking off with rival gangs. Indeed, they trace their origins back to 1986, when a bunch of bikers decided to do charity work.

Yes, the Harley Owners Group are devoted first and foremost to doing good within the local community. They just happen to ride big, expensive motorbikes!

For the first few years it was all pretty ad hoc. The guys, both expats and Indonesians, would raise money and look for good causes to help. Then came Ibu Arti.

“Ibu Arti had heard about us. Her primary concern was facial reconstruction for children and she had heard about our group,” said Clive Carlin, a long-term expat and a big player within the group.

“She came along to meet us and that was the foundation of the yayasan [foundation] as we see it today.”

The notion of brotherhood is common to all gangs around the world and it is the same with the Yayasan HOG. It is clear that Ibu Arti is held in high esteem by the group. Through her contacts, the foundation got to know of the work carried out by Dr. Gentur Sudjatmiko, a specialist in rebuilding the faces of children disfigured from birth.

It was hard work at first, Carlin explains over a beer at a watering hole in Kemang. Traditionally, children with cleft lips or palate deformities were left out of normal social intercourse and were often denied an education because they were thought to bring shame on their families.

Dr. Gentur was until recently the head of the reconstructive and plastic surgery unit at Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital in Jakarta, and is widely respected both in Indonesia and abroad for his wealth of knowledge in the reconstructive surgery field, and in particular for his pioneering work in Indonesia in operating on babies and infants.

His team provide their surgical time and expertise free of charge, while Yayasan HOG covered all other hospital and associated medical expenses, from transporting the children and families to the hospital, through the provision of post-operative care and medication.

Carlin is unstinting in his admiration of the doctor and his efforts. “Seeing the changes he makes on children’s lives... I just want to throw my arms up [in admiration],” he says, the respect evident in his tone and his body language.

“They are kampung kids by and large... I have seen them come from fairly impoverished backgrounds,” Carlin says.

To come from such a background into a big city can be intimidating, so part of the work the foundation does involves bringing family members along as well to help the patients feel more comfortable.

I wanted to know what the reaction was when a group of bikers rode into town offering to change a child’s life.

“They are quite shy. They are very, very appreciative. When they go to have the operations done it is a very special occasion and we [HOG] also visit... they are all dressed up to the nines. You know they ate wearing their best clothes and that is their way of expressing their gratitude,” he says, smiling at the memory.

When the operations first started there were up to 25 children a week going under the knife; but such has been the success of the campaign that there are now fewer operations a week, and the children, along with their family members, are traveling greater distances, which puts a strain on the funds HOG raises.

But Carlin is at pains to point out that the children and their families are not left to their own devices in the big, bad city, and says the foundation is hoping to hold barbecues with the families so people can get to know each other and to maintain a level of personal interaction that is important in building relations and trust.

Over the years, some 2,600 procedures have been carried out under the auspices of the foundation at a cost of Rp 3.5 million to Rp 5 million ($280 to $395) each.

Unfortunately the children aren’t allowed out on the motorbikes, but they are allowed to clamber around and play on them, under supervision of course.

Like any charity, the HOGs devote a lot of their time to raising funds, and the golf day, initially inspired by the tireless Ibu Arti, plays a major role in that. This year saw the fifth event, and all available places were booked, which came as a great relief to the organizers.

“Three years ago we were really struggling with numbers and we actually toyed with the idea of canceling it. At one stage it looked like we would struggle to get 10 players,” Carlin says, touching on the precarious tightrope that all charitable organizations must walk.

They decided to plug on and they ended up with some 80 players. The 2014 event attracted 130 players as well as a number of players from overseas who assured me they were actually in town for a meeting but had been asked to come along and join in the fun.

The other major event on the HOG calender is the HOG Fest, an annual celebration of the Harley-Davidson lifestyle, and Carlin assures me that a lot of work goes into organizing both events. But you can tell from his demeanor when he talks about the changes the operations can bring to a child’s life that neither he nor his mates begrudge a single moment of the preparations.

Indeed, they are considering adding a third fund raiser to the list.

We finish up our beers and head for the door. “You should come and join us the next time we go visiting local orphanages. You should see their faces when they see us turn up on our bikes!” Carlin smiles again. Clearly, he loves what he does.

For more information about Yayasan HOG and the work that it does, check out the website at YayasanHOG.com.

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