Straight from the Heart

I think a lot of us, although we may not like to admit it, take things for granted, most importantly the love and support we have from our parents. Every child deserves to be loved unconditionally, even if not by their birth parents, and down a little alleyway in Cipete, South Jakarta, some very lucky babies who had this birthright taken away from them, are being loved again.

Founded on a dream by Ingrid Van der Mark, a part-time school-teacher, Lestari Sayang Anak Orphanage’s vision is for each of its adopted children to experience individual love and care like they would in a real family environment. Unlike larger orphanages, Lestari Sayang Anak aims to recognise each of the children’s strengths and weaknesses and develop individual bonds with them all, and this is achieved by keeping the capacity of orphans to a low number.Although petite, this orphanage has enough love inside its walls to heal the world. Ingrid, who herself has two gorgeous adopted girls, Lisa and Emily, knew she would one day open an orphanage after visiting one in Romania that was in terrible condition.

After settling in Indonesia she eventually started her own orphanage with the assistance of her sister-in-law, Ibu Rita, who helped enormously with obtaining licenses and deeds. Unfortunately, with Ingrid being a Dutch national, rules and regulations made it that much harder for her to set up her charity, something I’m sure many of us have had experience with in some way or another.

The family, which is exactly what they are, is made up of Ibu Rita and three nurses, Ibu Ipah, Ibu Wydia and Ibu Asih, who all cook, clean and care for their three orphans. They have such a close bond with the children and the time spent together is filled with joy and laughter. The story of how each of these boys came into Ingrid’s care is one of the opposite, however.

Baby Jimmy

First there was Jimmy. This bouncing baby turned one last April and has been at the orphanage since he was only two days old. His birth mother had one previous son, but sadly she was being abused by her husband and had to make the difficult decision not to keep her second born. The mother heard of Lestari Sayang Anak through brochures which Ingrid distributes in midwife clinics in the poorer parts of town, and when Ingrid received the call, she went directly to the hospital where Jimmy was born to bring him to his new home. The birth mother never met Jimmy and stayed in a separate room when he was being collected.

Six months later came Benny who was originally in an orphanage in Bogor. At two months of age, his parents could no longer support him. They tried to contact several other orphanages, but they were all at full capacity. Luckily they found Ingrid. After speaking over the phone, Benny was brought to Lestari Sayang Anak on a motorcycle wrapped up in a blanket. He was malnutritioned and had a rash all over his body. His daily diet consisted of only two bottles of milk a day as well as rice porridge, which a baby of two months cannot digest. Ingrid told me although the mother was expressionless when she handed Benny over, she could feel her pain. Giving up your child due to poverty must be the hardest thing a parent can ever do.

Baby Roby smilling for Ingrid

Third, but not least came Roby, who was a Christmas baby, born on December 24th last year. His birth parents were only sixteen years old when Robbie was born – this goes to show how much sex education is needed here in Indonesia. Two days after his birth, he was brought to Lestari Sayang Anak and as Ingrid tells me the story, little Roby is smiling and kicking away in Ibu Widya’s lap.

With three happy and healthy babies at the orphanage, Lestari Sayang Anak has space for five more blessed little ones. Their vision for the future is to have another house, not far away, for the follow up ages of five and onwards until they are independent. Everything is donated, from the toys to the cribs and luckily Ingrid was savvy enough to get sponsorship from Huggies and Frisian Flag, but even with these, the costs for running an orphanage are still high – rent, food shopping, drinking water and utilities all add up. But even when times get tough, the family at Lestari Sayang stay positive and find a way to pull through – just like families do. “Everything we do here comes from the heart” Ingrid says.

“Every child has the right to a happy and healthy life…”

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HOW TO HELP

Yayasan Lestari Sayang Anak

Always shelter, always a home.

Any kind of help is welcome. You can make a one time donation or become a regular sponsor. In return you will receive a monthly update of the development of your sponsored child and you are always welcome to visit and play with your sponsor child.

Donations can be made to:

Yayasan Lestari Sayang Anak

ANZ Panin Bank, Account number: 413765 01 00001

Swift code: ANZBIDJX

http://www.lestarisayanganak.org

021 7500 328 / 081 791 89727 / ingrid5_09@yahoo.com

http://www.facebook.com/lestarisayanganak

First published in Indonesia Expat 17 January 2012

Run, Scott, Run!

1,250 kilometres in 25 days, from Bali to Jakarta, running through the sweltering 32 degree Equatorial heat and 75% humidity, dodging trans-Java buses, trucks and breathing in masses of carbon monoxide – does this sound like your worst nightmare? Just in case it didn’t compute the first time, that’s an average of 50 km a day, every day for 25 days, which is the equivalent of 30 back-to-back marathons. Are your legs starting to feel like jelly yet? Surely only a super human could accomplish such a feat.

Enter Scott Thompson. A blue-eyed Scotsman with a huge mission to accomplish this New Year. “I was looking for something extreme, larger than anything I’d ever done before,” Scott tells me. “I did the Sahara Ultra Marathon which was 250 km through the Sahara desert and thought about maybe trying the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon. I called several hotels in Jakarta to ask if they have freezers with available space to put a treadmill inside, but the response wasn’t so great…” Then the hundred dollar bet for a Bali to Jakarta run was presented to Scott in the office and from there his mind has been set.

Some may call him fool-hearted, but I say courageous. This run hasn’t been done before and when Scott crosses the finish line, he will be in the Guinness Book of World Records with the fastest run time between Bali and Jakarta. This mammoth run will start at Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai airport on March 8th, 2012 and take him north for three days to catch the Bali Straits ferry at Gilimanuk for the crossing to Banyuwangi-Ketapang. On the ferry, he won’t be enjoying the sights and sounds like the other passengers. He’ll be running, either on the spot or around the ferry deck, ultimately taking the attention away from the sights and sounds for the passengers on the ferry! From Banyuwangi he will follow the road north and turn west across four Javanese Provinces; East Java, Central Java, West Java and Jakarta.

The motive for this race will make you weak at the knees. Raising funds for underprivileged children in Indonesia is Scott’s driving force and all funds raised will go to Mary’s Cancer Kiddies and Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa. “I’m trying to raise awareness for these great charities which, although small, do incredible work for children who need help the most.”

This is a physically challenging and dangerous mission, but Scott will have only the best support team behind him for the entirety of this journey. Medic One have sponsored a medic with supplies, G4S are providing the escort car, Adidas are on board for the running shoes, Aqua and Mizone for the hydration and more sponsors are set to join in. So far, a running total of Rp.351,000,000 has already been raised for the charities and as this is a huge run, let’s make the donation huge, too. Scott and his supporters will ask that you join in supporting this fantastic cause and pledge as little or as much as you can to help the children.

As a Brit, Scott admits he doesn’t want to blow his own trumpet and come across as cocky or over confident. “I don’t mean this in a nasty way, but that’s the kind of thing North Americans are good at doing.”

A fair bit of self-belief has to be involved to accomplish this journey. Is it even physically possible? Dangers include heat exhaustion, dehydration, severe blistering of the feet, chafing, pulling or straining of muscles as he’ll be running on uneven terrain, avoiding potholes and automobiles. When Scott ran the Sahara Ultra Marathon, he lost 5 kg and this was over 4 days only. It’s hard to imagine how much he will lose over 25 days in the tropics!

“I know there will be a point where I ask myself ‘Why am I doing this?’ But once it’s done, I’ll relax, have a burger and a beer, and remember only the good things about the experience.”

For more info on the run and how to donate, please visit: http://www.runningbalitojakarta.com

First published in Indonesia Expat January 12, 2012

Le Souq, C’est Chiq

Literally translated as “Arabic Market”, Le Souq captures the young and vibrant spirit which is somewhat lacking in Jakarta’s interior design world. Fresh out of the oven, this interior decorating shop has the shelf age of one week but has won over the hearts of countless people already. What makes this shop so special? Three words – “Joie de vivre”.

Owned by Dutch national with an Egyptian father, Mira Noordhoek Hegt, Le Souq has filled a gap in the market. As soon as I entered, I squealed with delight at the colourful Buddha head candles amongst the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ rabbit print cushions, funky lamps and elegant French embroidered mirrors on display. I literally wanted to have everything in the shop! Of course this made Mira extremely happy.

“I want this shop to put a smile on your face,” she says. “It’s meant to be a fun interior decorating shop where you can also buy nice, unique, high quality gifts for the home. I want people to feel welcome here and not intimidated like you do at many high end interior shops.”

You definitely feel welcomed here and intimidation is nowhere in sight, although quality is. The design of the products distinguishes itself by being cross-cultural with a mix of styles. All products are hand made from natural, high quality materials, like teak wood and hides and fabrics used are either silk, pure cotton or linen or a mixture of both. The combination of styles is surely inspired by Mira’s travel experiences, having lived in Europe, the United States, Africa and Asia. Her collection reflects the best of these worlds.

Coincidentally, Mira is a lawyer by profession, but interior design has always run through her veins. Her husband’s move to Indonesia was “meant to be” it seems, for her to take the plunge into the design world, what with Java being the epicentre for the production of furniture and interior products. After a year in the pipeline, with the 3 P’s; Planning, Paperwork and Presentation, her dream has become a reality. All materials are imported, but products are made here, which is the reason why Mira’s financial manager, Maaike Evers, is able to keep prices down. We like this a lot of course.

Is Jakarta ready for the ‘happy chic’? Mira and Maaike definitely think so. “Your home is the most important place on earth in these hectic times. It should have a luxurious feel, yet you should feel comfortable in it and it should put a smile on your face, too!”

One of the great things about a trip to Le Souq is that you can combine it with a visit to the shop on the floor above, Dyrt, where all products are made entirely from recycled banners. Owned and founded by Karen Isdaryono, Dyrt design boasts a varied product range including Home, For Kids, For Sports, Woman, Office and even Pets! Forest Resource Certified, this shop is passionate for recycling and it shows. Minimum waste of the disregarded banners from HSBC, Citibank, Gudang Garam, Warna Warni and several other companies is a rule and small leftover cuttings are even woven or made into small placemats.

“These kind of recycled products are not new in the western world,” Karen tells me, “but here they’re still a novelty and in most cases of low quality. At Dyrt quality is high and training is even provided for those interested in learning about making recycled products.”

Two distinguishably unique shops under one roof ladies and gentlemen, both equally able to satisfy the design guru/recycling enthusiast in you.

Please visit these innovative ladies at Jl. Kemang Raya No. 72, Lot K.

Le Souq / Mira Noordhoek Hegt

+62 21 719 5672

Dyrt Design / Karen Isdaryono

+62 21 718 0275

First published in Indonesia Expat November 25, 2011

Set Your Inner Hippie Free at Tiger Island

Most people don’t get over-excited when you mention the Thousand Islands (Pulau Seribu), myself included, however one of these one hundred or so islands (I know, the ‘thousand’ in the name is very misleading) has captured my hippie heart and soul and is now my favourite weekend break within two hours of the Big Durian. Pulau Macan aka Tiger Island (another misleading name as there are no tigers in sight, I assure you) is a tiny island paradise where not a care in the world exists.

Our trip to the island of the tigers began with a speedboat ride, which left Marina Ancol at 8am on Saturday morning. As we pulled out of the harbour, we held our noses for the first five minutes as the boat waded through North Jakarta’s polluted murky waters. After that we were off, and the waters quickly turned sky blue as we marvelled at the many tiny islands we passed, some with small mansions on land, wondering how the other half lived.

From afar, Pulau Macan looks like a small hedge in the middle of the ocean, and as we got closer, it turns out it looks like a very big hedge in the middle of the ocean. The first thing you see as the speedboat pulls into the pier is the row of solar panels, and as a self-confessed eco-warrior, the moment we set foot ashore I was home. Guests were lounging in hammocks, books in hand, chilling out on the driftwood bar overlooking the clear baby-blue ocean, enveloped in giant sofas in the open-air living area with smooth grooves flowing (one positive criticism would be that the playlist needs to be longer and not on constant repeat – only so many times can I hear Eric Clapton’s ‘Cocaine’ over the space of a weekend).

Myself and mystery date decided to go on a rekkie of the island, which lasted about five minutes as the island is only about a hectare in size, discovered a cockerel, some hens, two very happy lounging island cats, and our beautiful hut (I say hut because that’s what it is – not a wall in sight). You really feel at one with nature here. We spent the rest of the morning snorkelling around the islands, kung-fu fighting off some very aggressive little fish who just love to nip you behind your ankles, as well as dodging some very prickly sea urchins! Besides these two ‘deadly predators’ (don’t forget the tigers), the snorkelling around Tiger Island is very pleasant – good visibility, various different corals and thousands of fish.

That afternoon I met the island’s Swiss/Dutch/Indo GM, Marc Zwyer, at the island’s bar and he told me how Pulau Macan is very proud of its sustainability projects. Three years ago, under new management, the island was transformed into an eco-resort and the aim is for guests to be inspired. “The speed boat may not be eco-friendly, but the first thing you’ll notice on our island are the solar panels and the energy generated from these are stored in a big red box which provides electricity, albeit limited, for guests to be able to have a small lamp on in their huts, as well as a fan,” Mark tells me. To be honest the constant cooling breeze that blew through the island was fan enough, but apparently August, which is when we were there, is the best time to visit as the breeze never stops.

“Water is imported to the island on boats and as we don’t get much rain here we use rainwater to hydrate the organic garden which grows chillies, ginseng, cassava and aloe vera,” he continues. “This whole bar you’re sitting at is made of driftwood that our guys go hunting for in the ocean as are most of our huts. We teach local fishermen to make furniture out of driftwood to sell in the hope that this knowledge will be passed on to their children and hopefully end the fishing in these waters.” As it turns out, overfishing is a real problem here and fishermen still use cyanide spray to fish – over our stay I caught sight of at least three fishing boats hovering around the neighbouring islands. The island also has a coral nursery where guests can help with planting new coral.

On the island, guests are encouraged to use water and electricity sparingly, which are lessons we should all use in our day-to-day lives back in civilisation’. The island promotes healthy eating and wellbeing and meals are very healthy, served buffet-style according to the number of guests staying so as to avoid waste (they have a strict 40 guest max policy), and is predominately vegetarian with the additional meat dish to satisfy the carnivores. Pulau Macan can be chartered along with its small neighbouring island for team building exercises like ‘survivor’ where teams have to construct, cook and survive with only natural resources, and the occasional hidden mie goreng packet.

Geologically speaking there is no threat of tsunamis in these waters and Mark assured me there are no pirates, unless you wanted to throw a pirate themed party of course. We stayed an extra night because one night simply wasn’t enough, and our time was spent taking little traditional boat trips to the neighbouring islands to snorkel with the fish, practicing yoga to the sunrise, cozying up to beautiful sunsets, sleeping at 9pm, and just generally feeling like we were thousands of miles away from anywhere, so when the time came to leave the island, we felt more relaxed than we’d ever been.

If you’re a hippie at heart, love to chill out in hammocks and walk around half naked, and can handle the sound of silence, this is the place for you. Book way in advance as the island is almost always fully booked on the weekends.

First published in Indonesia Expat, 30 November 2011.

Southeast Asia-based journalist | producer | environmental activist