Tag Archives: charities

Then Trash Became Ffrash: Meet Karin van Horssen and Renate Suurd-Joossink

Ffrash produces high-quality, sustainable design furniture and home interior products from trash, giving former street children a chance at a better life. Their values? 100 percent trash, 100 percent sustainable, 100 percent design and 100 percent not-for-profit. We meet the two ladies in charge to find out more.


What are your professional backgrounds and what brought you to designing interior products out of trash in Bekasi?






Renate: I came to Jakarta in 2013, having worked for more than 15 years for Wegter Consumenten BV in the Netherlands, where I developed concepts for kitchen and tableware in many different styles.

Accompanying my husband to Indonesia, Ffrash was the logical step to share my professional experience and contribute to this great opportunity. Jakarta, with its more than sufficient amount of trash and high number of street youths, needs awareness and support. Giving former street youth a second chance by providing them shelter, training, work experience in combination with sustainable design products from trash, is the perfect way for me to support the Indonesian society.

Karin: After having different marketing jobs in the Netherlands, I decided to start my own business in 2008. By creating clothes for women and girls, I combined creativity and entrepreneurship. My husband’s work brought me and my family to Indonesia in 2013. When I first saw the design products of Ffrash and heard the story behind the project, I was really impressed. So, when I had the opportunity to join this beautiful project, I didn’t hesitate. With Ffrash, again, I can combine creativity and entrepreneurship, but more important: give the former street children of Jakarta a second chance.

Where do you source your recyclable items from?

The wine bottles are generally given to us by friends and we work with some restaurants to acquire their used wine bottles, too. We are always in need of wine and glass water bottles. The table vases are made from fishing boat bulbs, which were once thrown overboard when broken. We buy the majority of our other materials directly from the trash pickers.

Photo Bulb VaseI actually own one of your vases made out of a fishing boat’s light bulb. Where did you get your inspiration for this unique design?

The vase was designed by the Dutch designers Guido Ooms and Karin van Lieshout. They travelled to Indonesia several times to visit trash dumps in search of the right materials. After having designed the Ffrah collection, they trained the team on how to handle the tools and machines and the various aspects of product design.

What creative designs are you working on now?

At the moment we are working with Indonesian designers, Karsa, and we are looking for new designers who can develop and add a new Ffrash collection.

Tell us about the children that you work with and train as artisans. These children used to live on the streets before becoming a part of Yayasan Kampus Diakonia Modern (KDM) and entering into your programme. What positive developments have you noticed in their characters from being a part of Ffrash?

Ffrash works closely with KDM, a local foundation that offers shelter to former street children. Ffrash believes that every child deserves the right to a sustainable future in a clean environment. With this vision, we created an opportunity for the street children to become skilled workers who can turn trash in beautiful design products. Ffrash provides the former street children aged 16 to 19 years, 18 months’ training, but also endows these youth with knowledge and skills to start their own companies.

At Ffrash, they learn how to use and develop their skills in different ways. They work in the Ffrash workshop from Monday till Friday. Further, we offer them schooling – English courses and safety training. We notice that some children are becoming more responsible and more self-confident.

Do your artisans get paid for their work? How do you ensure your work with the children is sustainable?

The artisans receive pocket money for their work. There are three key factors – economic growth, environmental issues, and poverty – that must be addressed in order for sustainable development to take place. Poverty in particular often prevents sustainable use of natural resources, and so it must be handled intelligently to reverse the trend. By integrating environmental conservation on one hand, and economic development on the other, sustainable development can be achieved. In other words, sustainability requires a balance between ecological, economic, and social considerations.

CS_FfrashWorkshop-003Ffrash went in search of new applications for reusing trash to provide more benefits to the less fortunate youths around Jakarta, while also reducing the energy required for recycling. In this way, Ffrash contributes to sustainable development by creating a better balance between consumption and conservation. It is a fact that the processing of wood, whether for the purpose of furniture-making or wood crafting, is part of the Indonesian culture and tradition. Ffrash does not chop down more trees to make its furniture and interior design products. Instead, Ffrash makes furniture and other products by re-using trash, thus showing people that you can create new products without using wood as a raw material.

Additionally, ‘upcycling’ offers a solution to the problems around waste processing in Indonesia. And lastly, by training youths in furniture-making, Ffrash empowers them to succeed in society. Vocational training and professional coaching support the street children to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty. The children learn to create a better future for themselves in an environmentally sustainable manner, while learning a trade and entrepreneurial skills.

What is the most moving experience you’ve had while working at Ffrash?

The whole experience has been moving. There are success stories, but sometimes also some sad stories. It has its ups and downs. That’s how it goes in real life…

Are there any challenges that you face working with ex-street children?

It’s obvious that their background is totally different from ours. Sometimes it is difficult to empathise. For us it’s important to keep in mind that their backgrounds are different and to react the right way.

From your work in this industry, how have you found the Indonesian mentality towards rubbish?

There is a still a lot of work to do in Indonesia. It’s going slowly, step by step. This will take years after years to change. We have just started to notice the presence of more public rubbish bins around Jakarta, encouraging people to separate and dispose of their rubbish more thoughtfully.

What can we expect to see from Ffrash in the near future?

We want to make a beautiful high design interior collection which is much more expanded. We also want to generate more selling points. On the other hand, we will try to help the former street youth as much as we can, giving them a second chance and a better future. All profits are divided between the children and the running of the workshop. We invest in their further development and training to give them a second chance.

Thank you! To get in touch, please email: renate.joossink@gmail.com 

Helping the Kiddies in Need

Mary’s Cancer Kiddies (MCK), a charity providing financial support for the treatment of children with cancer in Jakarta, was propelled into the spotlight when Scott Thompson, a Scottish expat working in Jakarta, ran from Bali to Jakarta to raise money in their name. Thompson successfully ran this great distance of 1,250km—with the children’s faces, no doubt, as his inspiration—making it clear that this charity was one worth going the distance for.

This noble cause was originally started in 2003 by Australian then-expat and journalist, Mary Binks. On a visit to Dr. Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital (RSCM), Mary met cancer-suffering children in the non-infectious ward and was appalled that the families could not afford even the most basic diagnostic procedures. She promised then and there to pay for some of the tests required, eventually realizing that the issue was far bigger than just finding money for a few scans. “I would need to start raising serious money on a grand scale to help as many children and their families as possible. And so the idea of MCK was born,” Mary tells me. Mary’s philosophy is that “a life not lived helping others is a life not lived.”

Mary felt very strongly from the beginning that her organisation would not just be about money, but also about being there with the child until the very end: “It’s incredibly difficult to watch a seven-year-old die; a child who should be riding a bike or kicking a football not knowing what the inside of a hospital even looks like. It’s an experience that stays with you for the rest of your life…”

Julie van Laarhoven of MCK. Photo by Jim Kaunang
Julie van Laarhoven of MCK. Photo by Jim Kaunang

In 1999, now-MCK Chairwoman Julie van Laarhoven moved to Indonesia with her husband, meeting Mary at a playgroup in 2003, where she felt compelled to support Mary’s cause. “I was with the International English Service Church and our life group felt strongly that we wanted to do something to help and so we raised money to pay for chemotherapy for the children,” Julie explains. “When Mary started, she would meet the children and their families and would write these beautiful profiles, spending time to hear their hearts. This made it difficult for sponsors to say no to such a desperate situations to help the children get medical treatment.”

When Mary moved to Israel and then eventually home to Australia, Julie and a team of five passionate volunteers — including two Indonesian dentists — have continued to keep up the amazing work for the children. “It was heart-wrenching leaving MCK, the patients and their families,” Mary explains, “but Julie and a succession of extremely wonderful volunteers transformed MCK into an organisation more far-reaching than I could have imagined.”

Today, MCK works together with six doctors, sending them money every month to help cover the costs of cancer treatment, as well as other illnesses, for children and premature babies at RSCM and Rumah Sakit Kanker Dharmais (RSKD). “The doctors are our ears and our eyes and we’ve worked with the same team since the beginning,” Julie explains.

Meetings between MCK volunteers and doctors take place on a monthly basis, which has established very solid relationships, and doctors find it extremely helpful to know that there is money available, ready to be used for children’s treatment when needed. The doctors spend the money on low-income families only, and there is utmost trust between them and MCK volunteers. Monthly reports are produced by the doctors, including invoices and receipts, keeping everything transparent.

On top of providing financial support for treatment through MCK also provides prosthetic eyes for children who have retinoblastoma, a very aggressive type of cancer, which usually requires surgery and removal of the affected eye. Julie also personally emotional and spiritual support on her visits to the hospital. “Sometimes I bring other women from my prayer group and we ask parents if we can pray for their children in the hospitals, regardless of their religion. We are always received positively,” Julie explains.

In 2014, the Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Sosial Kesehatan (BPJS) system came into effect, providing healthcare for Indonesian families. Through this system, however, not everything is always covered, especially when it comes to cancer, as MCK quickly learned. There is a list of all medicines covered by BPJS, but there is a cap on the amount that the government will cover per medication, per patient. Low-income families who aren’t able to cover the remaining costs will be supported by MCK. A downside Julie has seen in the new system is that it often takes time for families to apply for BPJS and get the correct paperwork together, which can contribute to the child’s situation worsening. Since its arrival, however, Julie has seen more and more private hospitals opening their doors to the system – a very encouraging development.


Photo by Jim Kaunang
Photo by Jim Kaunang

Working with sick children must be extremely hard, so what keeps the MCK team going? “There was a boy named Bayu. He had a tumour the size of a football on his eye socket. He came from a little village in Riau that doesn’t even have electricity and their family somehow managed to bring him over to Jakarta. I would go to Cipto and sit with his mum and dad while he underwent treatment and surgery. After Bayu was cancer-free, his mum would call me every couple of months to thank me for helping him. You can’t put that feeling into words and that’s what keeps me going,” Julie answers as her eyes tear up with emotion.

It is a shame that the government has never acknowledged this organisation’s hard work and efforts to support the children of Indonesia and Julie’s message to them would be to continue to improve the BPJS system because — although not perfect yet — it certainly does help.

Mary dreams that all Indonesian children have the same opportunities to live as children in developed countries have, hoping that Indonesian babies will no longer be abandoned at hospitals when a mother can’t afford the care. “My adopted son had to be abandoned at a Jakarta hospital 15 years ago because his birth parents couldn’t afford the emergency caesarean that saved both his and his birth mother’s lives,” says Mary.

The work of MCK is done solely through their generous sponsors. “We really appreciate our donors and it’s because of their generosity and commitment to raising funds for the cancer kiddies that we’ve been able to continue,” Julie says gratefully.

Last year, Mary’s Cancer Kiddies helped an amazing 807 children, including 163 babies.

When asked what inspires Julie to keep going, she replied, “When you visit the children in hospital, there’s just so much fear on the parent’s faces. They’re so afraid because they don’t understand much about cancer, and they are worried because of how much treatment will cost. As a mother you’d do anything to help your child. It doesn’t matter what it costs.”

If you’d like to help volunteer or donate to this worthy cause, please visit www.Maryscancerkiddies.org 

Rainforests on the BRINCC: Barito River Initiative for Nature Conservation & Communities

Borneo, the largest island in Asia and the third largest in the world, is home to ancient rainforests that are 140 million years old, making them one of the oldest on planet Earth. Shared by Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, with Indonesia’s territory making up approximately 73% of the southern territory, the island of Borneo is an incredibly rich and diverse place in flora, fauna and culture. Sadly, development has been encroaching on her territory and is quickly destroying her natural beauty.

In the 1950s, the chainsaw and the tractor arrived on the island, causing much destruction to its rainforests. Satellite studies show that 56% of protected lowland rainforests were cut down between 1985 and 2001 to supply global timber demand. Protection laws are in effect, but inadequately monitored and enforced. The global demand for the production of palm oil has been one of the most devastating reasons for the demise of these ancient forests, as Indonesia and Malaysia account for over 90% of the world’s production area of this product, increasing from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to six million hectares in 2007.

With much of the lowland rainforests already destroyed, pressure is being put on the highland regions, like the Barito River watershed in Central Kalimantan. It is here that The Barito River Initiative for Nature Conservation and Communities (BRINCC) was founded whilst working at a research station in the Sebangau National Park’s Natural Laboratory, and where this pioneering organization is working on the forefront of conservation.

“Progress is inevitable,” Michal Zrust, BRINCC’s Director of Conservation tells me, “however, through science-based mitigation measures, we can help lessen the destructive impact on this fragile environment.” Michal graduated with a degree in Economics and ultimately ended up working in conservation via a number of research projects. He also works with large multinational palm oil companies to push for better production standards for the Zoological Society of London.

BRINCC’s work is separated into capacity building, biodiversity surveys and working with local communities. Their most impressive work is mapping one of the most understudied regions of Borneo, the Murung Raya Region. This map provides new data on species distributions, densities and population numbers, which are essential for making informed conservation decisions. BRINCC’s latest expedition extended the known ranges of many bird species, found numerous endangered tree species and tried to find the boundary of a known gibbon hybrid. This information will provide a deep understanding of the ecology of the region, essential in the policy decision process of the future.

BRINCC use standardized methodology for biodiversity mapping, such as the use of remotely activated camera traps to survey nocturnal animals. They also actively engage in the use of cutting-edge technology to provide researchers with an opportunity to field test and perfect methods. “On our current expedition, one of our visiting researchers is looking at the feasibility of using genetic analysis of blood extracted from leeches to survey rare mammals. If the leeches have sucked blood from, for example, a clouded leopard, we will know it is there, even if we never actually photograph it,” Michal explains.

Michal Zrust working in the rainforest

BRINCC is very proud of the fact that their expeditions are majority Indonesian, employing local staff, including government officials and villagers. They take promising undergraduate and postgraduate students in Indonesia, fund them and bring them on their rainforest expeditions to gain invaluable knowledge.There have been two expeditions so far; the first expedition took place in 2011 and the latest, this year, is still ongoing. Team members are dedicated and extremely passionate individuals from varied backgrounds. BRINCC’s directors consists of: Andrea Höing (Germany), Director of Social-Ecological Research; Dominic Rowland (UK), Director of Expeditions; Director of Wildlife Ecology, Peter R. Houlihan (USA); Director of Mammal Research, Dr. Susan Cheyne (UK); and their leader, Michal Zrust (Czech Republic), Director of Conservation.

Working in the jungle environment for months at a time, and living in very basic conditions, can be very challenging. The team have suffered inevitable illnesses and nutritional deficiencies, not to mention the general lack of home comforts. But their passion for this region’s welfare has helped them through each expedition, bringing them back to this magical area which most of them have dreamt of coming to for years.

In order for their work to bring about a positive change, BRINCC believe that other stakeholders need to be engaged in the process, most importantly the companies themselves.

“The industries working in the area need to acknowledge the fragility of the environment in which they are working and as a group work to ensure mitigation of impacts on the landscape level. We are working to engage the industry players before extraction begins,” says Michal.

The government is a fundamental player in ensuring that such extraction is done within the confines of the law and is the ultimate judge on where it is done and that it avoids negative impacts as far as possible.

Michal urges Indonesia’s economists to think of this natural habitat as having true monetary and intrinsic value if left intact. “Indonesia’s natural heritage is of fundamental value to its society, not just in terms of the magnificent biodiversity it holds, but also in terms of the services that it provides to its citizens and those of the world. The results of deforestation can be seen in the recent haze and this is underlined by loss of clean water provision, loss of fish in rivers, loss of micro-nutrients for local communities, as well as the incredible costs to human health from chest infections (amongst others).”

Deforestation in Borneo (courtesy of BRINCC)

Michal’s words on how mankind must evolve to live side by side with nature are poignant. “It is only when we begin to value the services we receive from nature, rather than perceiving it as a free, exploitable good, that we will begin to make more sensible and sustainable development decisions.”BRINCC provides field data to inform and support policy development and implementation and are always open to collaboration, whether it is with the government, local or international civil society. They believe that with these partnerships, their work can have a much greater impact.

BRINCC’s work runs solely on donations and sponsorships. They welcome anyone who wishes to collaborate or support them in other ways to visit http://www.brinccborneo.org or email info@brinccborneo.org

First published in Indonesia Expat, August 2014