under the bridge

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“Mine is the ugly house in the back.” Those were the first words Wua told me when I sat down next to her in the under-the-bridge community I visited Saturday. Wua is eight years old and has lived in this community hear whole life. “I want to go to school,” she told me, “but mom said I have to stay and help her.” Apparently she should be in third grade, but she is not allowed to go to school because she needs to stay and help her mom earn money. Since she cannot attend the government school, she has been attending the Saturday tutoring sessions a volunteer group runs every week. I had the opportunity to visit during one of the sessions. During one of the breaks, Wua came up to me showed me her artwork–and the fact that she had written her name!

Wua’s community is the same community where the kids from the soccer outreach live. It was so eye opening to be able to see where they are from. I must say, it was not at all what I expected. Maybe it’s because I’ve only ever seen under-the-bridge communities in movies, but I was not expecting a whole organized little village. They have a store, food stalls, and their houses (well, shacks really) are organized into streets. One of the older girls from soccer took us all the way to the back of the community, past the open area where the kids have their tutoring sessions.

As I sat next to Wua taking it all in, I felt very torn. On the one hand, it made me so sad that she and the other children there have to live in shacks underneath a bridge. But on the other hand I was amazed at the little society they had created for themselves. They had even taken parts of a used jungle gym and used it to build parts of their shacks. While I was walking around some of the little boys were climbing up playing on the repurposed jungle gym.

I think maybe part of the reason it wasn’t a hopeless visit was because there are people there making a difference in the lives of these children every week. Volunteers from all around Jakarta, from all different paths of life, come together to teach and tutor the kids in this community. I take my hat of to them, they are an amazing and dedicated group of people. It is so exciting to know that there are people all over Jakarta doing their part in making a difference in lives of Indonesian children.

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