A Day To Be Thankful

In Heartwarming, Me Likey on July 4, 2007 at 11:21 pm

I went to Ancol to shoot the holiday episode for my show today.  Very tiring, as I expected.

What I did NOT expect was the streams of feelings rushing inside me.  Confused?  Read on.

The day started at 7.30 a.m when I arrived at Yayasan Sayap Ibu, a modest orphanage tucked within South Jakarta’s somewhat ‘elite’ residential area, Barito.  This orphanage had exsited way back from the fifties, and located just beside the famous Hero Barito Supermarket.  I’ve always been curious on what orphanages are like from the inside, yet haven’t got the guts to enter one.  I’m a very sensitive person whenever it comes to orphans and senior citizens without families, heck I used to just cry seeing beggars when I was small and get laughed at for doing so quite a few times.  That is why, I guess, I grew up somewhat blocking my eyes and ears from these phenomenons and directed myself to be ignorant because I believed that what I don’t know won’t hurt me (anymore).

Now, it was my idea to take the orphans to a day of fun for the show and so I had to be responsible.  Tell you the truth, I couldn’t really sleep last night, afraid that I might break down and cry seeing the poor little kids running around having fun.  So I consciously conditioned myself with this mantra:

“It’s just a day of work.  It’s just a day of work.”

But the mantra bit me in my ass.

Dad dropped me in the orphanage’s parking lot, and I went straight to the lobby… where eleven very excited children were already dressed in their uniforms, with small backpacks on their shoulders and little red baseball caps… anxiously waiting for the bus.  I introduced myself to the teachers as the creative producer for the show and immediately got a very warm response…

… from a little boy standing next to me.

He held my hand and didn’t want to let go.  I got down to my knees and introduced myself again.

“Hello there cutie, I’m Miund.  What’s your name?”

I studied his face for a moment and I realized that he was once hare-lipped, but had been through a surgery, therefore causing his unclear pronounciation.  I turned to his teacher, who was all smiles when she told me his name.

“His name is Fikri”

I shook Fikri’s hand.  “Well, nice to meet you Fikri.  Are you ready to have fun?”

Fikri nodded, and to my pleasant surprise he gave me a bear hug.

He was still hugging me, when another little boy showed up beside me.  This one looked very clever, although a bit shorter.  With an excited look on his face, he tugged at my t-shirt.

“Are we going swimming, Mama?”

Mama.  Hm.  I turned to the teacher once again.   She, of course, explained:

“We taught every children here to call every women they know ‘Mama’.  It’s our thing, really.  They are very affectionate to visitors.  And yes, they do call the men ‘Papa’.  It gives them a sense of belonging, even for just a moment.”

I could feel tears brimming in my left eye.  Shit.  I smiled, and turned to the kid.

“Yes we are!  Have you got your swim gear with you?”

He nodded excitedly, “Yes Mama!  Have you?”

I shook my head, “No, sweetie.  I’m not going swimming.  But I will watch you swim, though.  By the way, what’s your name?”

“I’m Joni.”

“Nice to meet you, Joni.”

After a couple of minutes, my eyes landed on a very cute toddler.  I decided to try my luck as I’ve never succeeded with children ever before.  I came up to the babysitter.

“Hi, can I hold him?  Will he cry if I do?”

The sitter smiled and immediately transferred the boy to my arms.

“No, he loves new people.  His name is Dedi.”

I looked at Dedi’s almond-shaped eyes.  “Well hello there Mister Friendly, you look mighty handsome this morning.  Are you coming to Ancol with us?”

Dedi buried his face in my chest, his hands clasped tightly around my neck.  Ah, a shy cutie.

I played peek-a-boo with Dedi and not long after that, the bus came and I had to give him back to his sitter because apparently Dedi is still having a flu, so he couldn’t join the merriment.

So we were off to Ancol, saw dolphins, sea lions and beluga whales.  I was busy doing this and that as I’ve always been whenever shooting time comes, so I didn’t really hang out with the children.  When we were having lunch, me and the teacher got involved in a conversation.

Me:  “I’m an orphanage rookie, so do you mind if I ask you silly questions?”
Her:  “Of course not.  What do you want to know about them?”
Me:  “Well, where did you find these kids?  Did they just appear in your doorsteps?”
Her:  “Not really, but some yes.  We got them from hospitals, mostly.  And the birthparents too.”
Me:  “Hospitals?  Were they abandoned or something?”
Her:  “Yes.  Some we found in dumpsters on the streets… and they’re among the very few that we could save… We often wish we could do more…”
Me:  “But they do get adopted, right?  You allow people to adopt, right?”
Her:  “We do.  But it’s not that simple.  We really have to do a thorough background check on the future foster parents before we trust a child under their care.”
Me:  “What sort of criteria are you checking?”
Her:  “First of all we want to make sure that the future foster parents are really not able to have a child of their own.  And this must come with a certificate from the doctor to make it official.  We don’t want these kids to be just a ‘bait’ for them to have a real child.  You know how our culture does those sort of things.  Our main concern is the child’s welfare, and if the foster parents can’t give a decent living environment for them, they might as well just be under our care.”
Me:  “Wow.  That is a hard qualification for parents.”
Her:  “Of course.  These kids deserve so much better.  They’ve been through a lot, and I personally think that this is what happens if an orphanage really cares for its children.  We love our children so much.”
Me:  “You’ve worked as a teacher at the orphanage since…”
Her:  “I’ve been working there for fifteen years now.  Quite amazing, really.”
Me:  “FIFTEEN YEARS?  Wow.  Do you get attached to the children?  Is it hard for you to let go if one of your children gets adopted?”
Her:  “It was hard, and it will always be hard.  But I have their best interest at heart, so I try not to think about my own feelings so much.  I’m always at my happiest whenever a child gets a home he or she deserves.  Oh, but I do cry a lot.  Even until today… hahahaha…”

Me and Fikri

Me and Fikri, the boy who couldn’t let go of my hand the entire day. 

She spoke very lightly, adjusting her veil from time to time, not minding me smoking beside her and not knowing how her every word made my eyes watery.

Me:  “Don’t laugh at me, but I want to cry right now.”
Her:  “Wow you really are a rookie, aren’t you?”
Me:  “I’ve warned you, didn’t I?”
Her:  “You know what, come to the dorm.  Visit the kids.”

By this time I already killed my cig as Fikri, Joni and Jaka were literally all over me.

Me:  “Just visit them?  People are allowed to do that?”
Her:  “Of course!”
Me:  “Then what should I do when I visit?”
Her:  “Just do what you’re doing right now.  Play with them.  You know, it’s not always about money and things.  For them, it’s the touch that matters.  You, obviously have very good touch with them…”

That threw me in awe.  Fikri was sitting on my lap, Jaka was standing behind me, playing with my hair while Joni was standing on my feet.  And another shocking thing hit me once again:

I didn’t mind.

“Mama, when are we going to the pool?”
“Later sweetie, when your lunch is settled nicely in your tummy.”
“But it’s in here already, Mama.  I want to go to the pool!”
“The sun is still too hot, darling.  You’ll get sunburnt.  Just wait a few minutes more, okay?”

Right.  If I hadn’t been the girl rejected by every toddler in Indonesia before, I wouldn’t make the conversation above such a big deal.  But I was that girl, heck I even dedicated a whole chapter about my BAD reputation with kids in my book.  There’s another young man who couldn’t let go of my hand too, his name is Oki.  And Oki is deaf.  He wanted so much to communicate with me and has the habit of cupping my chin and turning my head to face his and truly ‘listen’ to what he has to say.  Now if you don’t call that cute, I don’t know what is.

Today these children made me feel special.  They made me feel adored.  And I have to be thankful for everything God has given me throughout these years… and how I can make myself to be of use to them… even for just one day.  Well, I will be back visiting them and giving them as much hugs and kisses as they want.  Because sometimes money just doesn’t matter.  It’s the affections that they need, and heck, I got a lot of those!

If you do have a lot of money or books or clothes or other kiddie stuff, you can donate ’em to Yayasan Sayap Ibu, Jl.  Barito II / 55 Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta 12130, Indonesia.  They can be reached through the phone at (62) 021 – 722 17 63.  They don’t have any website but I assure you, they’d be more than happy to greet you when you go visit.

Ah, I miss them already.  What a wonderful… wonderful day 🙂

More pictures and the Indonesian version of the story, click here.

  1. i don’t like little kids, but reading this entry makes my eyes watery… i do want to visit them, honey… with you 🙂

  2. […] Versi Inggris tulisan ini ada disini. […]

  3. bebe: hug me first before we go 🙂 i love you sweetie!

  4. Touching.
    Kids are always, amazing in their own way.

  5. Miund, I’m so proud of you. I have several foster children and everytime I feel down, I look at their pictures and become instantly feel so blessed. I thank you so much for your gentle and caring heart, Miund and I love you more now, knowing that we do have such a similarity.

    About that doctor certification thingy, well, it’s something really hard to do in the US, because the medical technology is so advanced and almost *nobody* is impossible to have kids now. I choose not to have kids for now, regardless of my current state of health. But whenever I want to, the doctors can really make it happen. Even a 60-year old lady without her own eggs can have a baby now.

    That’s kinda obsolete concept, I think, Miund. But of course it’s based on medical technology in Indonesia.

    I thank you for your kind and gentle soul, Miund. I’m so proud to be your friend. 🙂

  6. :(( i am so touched. such a nice post, Und.

  7. There was this one orphanage (or a childcare foundation, I’ve never got the chance to find out) on Jl. Purnawarman, Bandung where in late nineties to early 2000s Caringin-Dago angkot used to ngetem in front of it.

    Everytime I was in one of those angkots (from BIP, where else, going back home), I kept wondering what happened behind the closed doors and wished to knocked on the doors (or other doors in other similar places) someday. That never happens for the reason you wrote in the 3rd paragraph, 4th sentence. And because I knew that eventhough I and she shared similar compassions, I was no tougher than Angelina Jolie.

    So way to go, girl. You’re a step closer to Ms. Jolie’s better sides. 😉 Hear, hear.

  8. Silverlines: well i seriously didn’t think kids are amazing until yesterday 😀 indeed they are such angels!

    Jennie: thank you Jennie, and if you decide on vacationing to Jakarta, i’d be more than happy to take you there so the kids can embrace another loving hug from another caring person 🙂 after reading your comment, i realize that i don’t normally expose my “sensitive” side to the world, and i’m kinda embarassed, actually… hahahahakahkhk… but then i’m just a human being and it’s okay to be sensitive once in a while, rite?

    Ibeth: it’s a nice post based on a really wonderful experience, Beth! 😀

    Zakky: i think i know exactly what place you meant! i used to pass it a lot too, and used to be very curious as well. there’s another orphanage on the corner of Cipaganti – Pasteur… and i had the same curiosity whenever i pass that one too. guess it’s similar everywhere. well, i’m taking one step at a time. and about getting closer to angelina jolie… well, i’ve got a hot boyfriend already, so i think i’m almost there… hahakhakhakhakhk… i just don’t want that much tattoo on me. looks gross!

  9. Miund, definitely. I have some plans for orphanages as well, other than donating the royalties of my books. 😉

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