A man cuts fabric to be made into cloth masks at a Gerakan Kepedulian workshop. (Photo courtesy of GK Indonesia)

Self-Sustainability and Strong Community Key to Survive Pandemic for Low-Income Families


MAY 09, 2020

Jakarta. Community-based self-sustainability and teamwork will be crucial for underprivileged families to survive the pandemic, non-governmental organization Gerakan Kepedulian Indonesia has said.

Workers in Indonesia's massive informal sector are barely scraping by during the coronavirus crisis.


Large-scale social restrictions have forced many small businesses to close down, including many street food vendors.

According to data from the Manpower Ministry, a total of 314,833 workers from the informal sector in Indonesia have lost their jobs. 

Unfortunately, many of these workers are also the breadwinners of their families.

Shorn of any source of income, they mostly rely on care packages and the little savings they have to survive day-by-day. To most of them, what matters most is putting food on the table.

A prolonged pandemic will threaten the long-term survival of these underprivileged families the most.

According to Gerakan Kepedulian (GK) Indonesia board member Tin Rachmat, they need to become more self-sustainable, productive and function more as a close-knit community to be able to survive. 

Rather than relying on charity work, GK has mostly focused on empowering low-income families to become more productive and self-sustainable during the pandemic, Tin told the Jakarta Globe in a recent interview.

They organized activities ranging from cleaning up social housing complexes to teaching children how to read and write. 

Sponsored families are taught to make do-it-yourself greeting cards out of recycled paper to make some extra income.

Children are also given scholarships to get them off the street. 

During the pandemic, the NGO also taught many low-income families to make cloth masks for sale.

Board member Maricel Macesar said the cloth mask workshops were "learning labs" to improve craftmanship and productivity.

"They're not a business operation. We're spreading out the work to make sure everyone in the community is involved," Maricel said.

As of now, thirty sponsored families in a GK-built village in Mustikasari, near Bekasi, have been producing the cloth masks. 

Young Volunteers

The brains behind GK's activities are members of the Jakarta Intercultural School's (JIS) GK club.

One of them, eighth-grader Matthew, managed to get a bulk order of 600 cloth masks by uploading a promotional video on YouTube and reaching out to his mother's extensive contacts.

The bulk order was for patients at a children's cancer hospital.

Matthew has also been brainstorming ideas to generate more income for the families.

This includes selling a more expensive, adjustable mask and launching a t-shirt and hoodie collection.

Some of the money made from selling the cloth masks will go toward providing internet access for GK-sponsored children who need it for their online classes during the pandemic. 

Before the pandemic, the children were invited to the JIS campus once a week to meet the students. 

"They've created a community based the common language of fun and friendship," club advisor and JIS teacher Richard Miller said.

Doing More as Community

Residents conducted community work in West Jatinegara rusunawa. (Photo Courtesy of GK Indonesia)
Residents clean a social housing complex in Jatinegara, East Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of GK Indonesia)

GK is currently sponsoring 5,600 families in 10 rusunawa, the government-owned low-rent apartments, and 60 community centers in Greater Jakarta.

The foundation works alongside the government in community development in the rusunawa complexes. 

"[We're encouraging people] to live as a community rather than as individuals. It's important that we do this, especially during this pandemic," Maricel said.