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Indonesia: realities of institutional life for children and their mothers

Volunteers visit Indonesian mothers
Mothers at one of the institutes David and his fellow volunteers visited

Last week, a group of Save the Children volunteers flew out to Indonesia to see first-hand how our Families First Signature Programme is transforming children’s lives.

East Anglia volunteer David Float has been blogging daily on the experience; today he reports back from visits to two institutes for children in Bandung.

Of the 80 centres for children in Bandung, only 16 have adopted the National Standards of Childcare. The directors realise that the NSC bring such benefits to children and the institutions that they now encourage others to adopt the same standards.

We split into two groups and saw first-hand what an institution looked like. The accommodation was very basic and in one, the fabric was in need of repair, but it was still an improvement on what came before.

“Born from stone”

At the institution the first group visited, we met a boy whose parents abandoned him when he was only four years old. He had been abused by several adults and unsurprisingly, it had taken its toll – he told us that he had been ‘born from stone’. Eventually, the police brought him to the institution where he is now flourishing and dreams of being a footballer.

Another was orphaned at three years old. He had been brought up by his grandparents, but when they couldn’t afford to send him to high school, his sister brought him to the institution. He stayed for a while, but his family came back for him and he ended up being used by his brother-in-law as forced labour in his clothing factory – in spite of the fact that he underage.

Social workers brought him back to the institution so that he could complete his education. Like the first boy we met, he’s happy to be here.

Making plans to support children

On our second visit of the day, we met the institute director and staff as well as children living in the institution and two mothers who had children living there.

One of the mothers had been a victim of domestic violence, and was now living in the institution as well. Although her two children will remain in the institution for the foreseeable future, she will leave in the next few weeks.

The centre has helped her plan to start her own business selling food so that she can support herself and, eventually, her two children.

The other mother we met has two daughters in the centre. She currently lives in a very small shack with her mother, father, her five-year-old son and two other adults. The community decided it would be inappropriate for the girls to live there so now she walks to the centre regularly so that she can see her children.

Tomorrow, David reports back on how the community is building coping capacity so fewer vulnerable children need to be sent to institutions.


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