Making a difference: The Dilts Foundation assists impoverished people in Jakarta’s slums, including creating activities for kids. Courtesy of Dilts FoundationYou don’t need to be Bill or Melinda Gates to make the world a better place, with brave and committed figures throughout the world willing positive change in their own communities.
One of those individuals is Nihayatul Wafiroh.
Nihayatul, or Ninik as her friends call her, is a 32-year-old working mom from Banyuwangi, East Java.
She may look like an ordinary woman, but not for the people of Tegalsari village.
In her hometown, Ninik is running a community library where everyone from kids to mothers can gather to read books and magazines.
Ninik established the library in 2009 after she returned from the US with a master’s degree.
“I wanted to do something for my community but I didn’t have enough money to establish a home industry,” she said of her reason for setting up the library.
With a little money, Ninik and her husband built a small library in a 16-square-meter room in her home.
Starting with 500 books, the library now has thousands, mostly from Ninik’s own collection and from donations.
The woman, who works for a non-governmental organization in Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post she spends up to Rp 500,000 (US$55) of her own money every month to buy new books.
But money has never been the issue for Ninik when it comes to running the library.
Her strong commitment to empowering her neighbors, especially women and kids, seems to be her major drive with the library.
Good thing Ninik is not alone, there is also a younger generation that shares the same spirit.
Meet 25-year-old Reza Pahlevi, who established Rumah Kenari, an organization that promotes reading through free book distribution and community libraries.
Reza had the idea with some friends in Surakarta, Central Java, in July of 2008. But, the organization had to cease operating because the members were busy with their own lives, including Reza, who moved to Jakarta for work.
Hoping to continue the mission, Reza, who works as a linguist for a private company, asked his colleague Nurhadianty Rahayu, or Ayu, to start Rumah Kenari again in early 2010.
The new Rumah Kenari has expanded its distribution to Indonesian border areas through partnerships with several organizations. Not only that, the books they have on hand have also increased from dozens to hundreds under Reza and Ayu’s leadership.
The amazing thing about Rumah Kenari is that these young people support the organization with their own money.
Reza told the Post they spend between Rp 500,000 and Rp 1 million every month to buy books.
Both Reza and Ayu don’t seem to mind spending the money as they are looking for something bigger.
“Our motivation is simple: we want to become people who are useful to the community … doing something for their surroundings even though it is small,” Reza said, explaining that such spirit embodied Rumah Kenari, which is a short for Rumah Kecil Namun Berarti (A Small but Meaningful House).
Ninik, Reza and Ayu’s activities demonstrate that doing something for society doesn’t always have to be about giving money, but also about spirit and commitment.
In social work, what the three people are doing is known as do-it-yourself (DIY) volunteering or independent volunteering, where individuals or groups initiate their own volunteer projects.
University of Indonesia social expert Dody Prayogo said the movement emerged from people’s disappointment with the government’s failures to tackle social ills.
“It helps the government to fill its weaknesses,” said Dody, who specializes in community development.
According to Dody, DIY volunteering has existed for a long time in Indonesia, where people have a strong sense of togetherness.
Movable: Children look at books at a mobile library in Jakarta on July 16. Some individuals are helping local communities by creating community libraries so children and adults can have access to reading materials. JP/P.J. Leo“Romo Mangun and his project at the Code River during the New Order is one example,” Dody said of a DIY volunteering project by the architect that empowered people living along the Code River in
Dody has noticed a recent surge in independent grassroots social movements, pointing out the establishment of non-formal early childhood centers (PAUD) in almost every community stemming from increasing social awareness.
The trend can also be seen in volunteer activities initiated by people following natural disasters, or solidarity movements in response to certain issues on social media.
Yet, DIY volunteering doesn’t always mean people setting up their own initiatives. It can be as simple as volunteering for a foundation.
Twenty-eight-year-old Thea Rizkia opted for the second option, deciding to become a volunteer for the United Nations.
The full-time mother said she worked online translating documents for a UN organization.
Thea regards her volunteer work as an investment, for even though she is not paid, she hopes to reap benefits in other forms.
“It will look good on my CV [curriculum vitae] when I look for scholarships,” she said.
The same is true for Fadillah “Ellie” Yuliasari, 25, who sought out “life balance” in her volunteer work.
Working for a multinational company, Ellie, who is used to being pampered with first-class service at her job, admits she finds balance when she does volunteer work for the Dilts Foundation.
“It also helps me to become an unselfish person,” said Ellie, who has been a full-time volunteer at the foundation for more than five years.
It appears that these volunteers have their own agendas apart from contributing to society.
Dody likens the motivation to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs set up by companies not only for the advantage of people but also in the interests of stakeholders. “We may call it Individual Social Responsibility,” he said.
Draw me: Dilts volunteers hold a drawing class for impoverished children in Jakarta.Whatever the reasons, Dody highlights the importance of DIY volunteering to respond to poverty and education problems in society.
“We cannot count only on the government and the market doesn’t pay attention to the issue too much because it is not profitable,” he said.
The problem with such volunteer models is they do not last forever, and only come in small sizes.
Dody blames this on the lack of figures that have a strong commitment to making movements sustainable and able to grow.
Indonesia may not have a Bill or Melinda Gates with the resources to create sustainable community
development programs, but the country still has hope with people like Ninik, Reza, Ayu, Thea and Ellie.
Or maybe you?