Count Me In: Cultivating the Reading Habit With Bulir Padi

AUGUST 19, 2015

As an old Indonesian saying goes, “Jadilah engkau seperti padi, semakin berisi semakin merunduk”. Just as the padi plant that bends lower as it ripens, so too do those who are wise and knowledgeable display greater humility. The Bulir Padi foundation was founded with hopes that the children under their program can learn to remain humble as they progress in life.

A non-profit organization launched in 2002, the Bulir Padi foundation has empowered hundreds of low-income families by providing scholarships and access to a higher education.

“Bulir Padi started out as a group of concerned friends,” says co-founder Irma Isnaedi, “we felt an obligation to give back to society and we are aware of the lack of distribution of health education in Indonesia.”

In 2002, Irma and co-founders Tia Sutresna, Chevita Siregar, & Illiana Wijanarko, who share similar backgrounds in communication and social development, initiated the Bulir Padi foundations started by providing workshops on health & nutrition to marginal families. Later on their initiative expanded with educational programs and the idea to build a library where kids are hoped to spend their leisure time to read.

“At the time there were only few active members who could dedicate their full time to the foundation. There was a time of hiatus, as some of just started a family. But even with the hiatus, we tried to at least an annual activity to keep Bulir Padi going."

Their persistence paid off and was realized at the end of 2013 as their first community library, with the help of sponsors as well as local residents, was installed in the slums of Palmerah, West Jakarta. Despite its compact size, the “homely” architecture of the library makes it a comfortable spot for kids to gather, read and do their school assignments. From text books, to mini encyclopedias, to the Twilight saga, you can find them splayed on the shelves.

In addition to the library, Bulir Padi has also provided incentive based scholarships based on the grade point average of children from low income families. For those who scored an average of 80 to 100 are given full scholarships, for those who score less than 80 will receive a reduction of tuition according to the points they scored.

Students who have just completed secondary school or vocational secondary school with exceptional passing grades will be enrolled to a paid internship program in companies that are partnered with Bulir Padi. The internship program gives the opportunity to test the children’s social skills and apply their knowledge with real working experience. Some of the companies that have partnered with them are King Koil and Family Mart.

Naufal, an active volunteer of Bulir Padi and also a parent of the children who benefited from the program says that he has high hopes that Bulir Padi will continue to extend their programs to underprivileged children. “I’ve volunteered with Bulir Padi since it’s early days, I hope that more people can receive their benefits and more people to help their programs,” says Naufal.

Sustaining donors and support can be a challenge for homegrown non-profits like Bulir Padi. To extend their cause to the public, Bulir Padi holds their annual shop for school sale, where they sell high branded second hand fashion items and 100 percent of net proceeds were given to sustain their scholarship programs. In May 2015, Bulir Padi’s “Anniversale Charity Bazaar” at the Landmark Bistro to celebrate their 13 years became one of its most successful charity sales. Those who’ve missed the opportunity to “shop for a cause” can check their Shop for School website. The Shop for School website is a continuation of the Bags to School program that was launched in 2010.

This year, Bulir Padi collected more than 1000 books through their annual book drive and donations. With the increasing volume of books piling at the Palmerah library, Bulir Padi is looking towards building its second library in east Jakarta. If you are interested to help, you can help by donating or spreading word of their fundraiser at The fund-raiser will be closed by the end of August but you can have a look at their website to see what else you can contribute to.

Count Me In