Social status no matter for mingling children

17 Aug

The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Mon, 08/11/2008 10:29 AM  |  City

Young performers prepare to entertain their counterparts Saturday at Suropati Park in Central Jakarta, in celebration of Children’s Day. (JP/Mariani Dewi)

CHILDREN FOR CHILDREN: Young performers prepare to entertain their counterparts Saturday at Suropati Park in Central Jakarta, in celebration of Children’s Day. (JP/Mariani Dewi)

Children from different walks of life shared a morning of fun Saturday at a children’s get-together, as part of national Children’s Day celebrations in Jakarta.

Some 500 school children from financially secure families and 500 street children met and played traditional games together before watching performances of songs, poetry reading, dances and clowns at Suropati Park, Central Jakarta.

“We let the children — rich and poor — play together, to show them they are the same and that they can do things together. We want them to get to know each other and develop empathy from an early age,” Roostien Ilyas of the National Commission for Child Protection told The Jakarta Post.

“We are losing our sense of solidarity between different religions, social strata and ethnic backgrounds. It is hard to change our old ways, but we can reach out with children,” said Roostien, also head of Nanda Dian Nusantara NGO.

And it seems Roostien was right. The children mingled naturally soon after they met.

“I was surprised when the organizers just let them play together. I was worried they would feel awkward, but apparently the children got along fine,” said Suwata, a teacher from Sudirman Islamic Elementary School in Cilandak, East Jakarta.

The 22 students and their parents were very supportive, bringing food and drinks “more than expected”, Suwata said.

One of the activities involved the children exchanging gifts with each other.

Doni,8, Deni, 10, and Faisal, 10, brought souvenirs made of matchsticks, a skill they learned at Nur Sahabat shelter. In return, Deni received a pencil case filled with pencils and pens.

“I like it a lot. I like drawing,” Deni said.

Deni’s mentor at the shelter house, Afini, said initially the children were shy, but after receiving reassurance from the school children they became more relaxed.

Suwata said the school staff were previously unaware of the street children and shelter near their school.

“Our school holds a social event each year but we did not know there were street children and a shelter near the school. After talking to the founder of the shelter just now, we decided to work together more often,” Suwata said.

The event was also intended to introduce children to nature, and the potential the park has as a playground.

“We want to let people see there are places like this which are underused. With proper sanitary and security facilities, it can be used as a playground. Children have the right to play, something not well accommodated today,” Roostien said.

Roostien called for the formation of a special government unit specifically for children’s welfare.

“We have a ministry for women and youths but we do not have one for children,” she said.

“A child is a human who needs to be treated independently. They cannot be served sporadically (by different departments) because this would only have partial success.”

During the event, ten winners were selected from 150 entries in a nationwide children’s song competition.

“We will follow up with the Social Services Ministry to make these into commercial albums.

“We want to back the songs so children can have songs that suit their age-group,” said Henny Harmanoe, head of children’s development at the National Commission for Child Protection. (mri)

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