"There are some times when there is a sense that one's efforts have made a difference, and these past months here in Jakarta have been one of those times," quips American Tom Bergstrom, one of Yayasan Cakrawala Masa Depan's Project Managers. With the help and encouragement of FCF, we have at last been able to institute a sustainable program providing computer hardware and operational training to scores of Indonesian children in several orphanages in and around Jakarta, children who otherwise would have little or no access to such technological benefits.
Indonesia, still suffering the effects of the '98 financial crash, has the largest number of school dropouts of any Asian country, the seeds of future problems flourishing as we write. This fact gives us all the more reason to be happy about programs such as this providing an opportunity for scores of children to cross the digital divide.
The genesis of YCMD’s computer program was when YCMD received used computers from a couple local foreign companies. Focusing on a couple needy institutions which we had already been supporting, and where we had found a good connection with the management, we thus set up our first experimental computer labs. There were some rough beginnings with the constant power fluctuations causing hardware damage; children playing with the setups causing malfunctioning software; small, old hard-disks crashing; faulty floppy-disk drives; and…well, you name it!
With time, we replaced those in need with newer models, and meanwhile the children had the opportunity to learn the basics. But the need for a sustainable program was always our goal, and with the encouragement and help of FCF, we have finally been able to institute one. Although the physical standards may not be comparable to institutions in the West, the children are becoming computer literate and are also enrolled full time in public school, an exceptional achievement seeing that such institutions are totally funded by donations, with almost non-existent governmental help. Street children and orphans have access to regular training and input from the volunteer teachers who, thanks to the help of FCF/YCMD, now receive the benefit of a minimum of support to reward their voluntary initiative.
A secondary benefit of the help from FCF has been that others in Jakarta have taken notice of our program and are now beginning to offer their help. They see that it is a substantial and serious project, and so we have hope of enhanced help from new sources in the future.
Another great encouragement in all of this is the response from the staff and children themselves in the orphanages. The staff are elated to be able to do their administrational duties on solid, working computers and to print out their work on good printers. The students come back from school and are eager to get on a computer for self-initiated study.
Already in the short time since we began the program we have witnessed the first group of ‘graduates’ from the Parapattan orphanage (who are obliged to move on when they reach 18) that have gone on to study and/or work in computer/technology related work. Those attending university have their own computers to work with as a graduation present from the YCMD course. We look forward to hearing that many more of the young people, who now have this technological and digital opportunity, will become achievers and build a sustainable future as productive members of their society.