FROM PILES OF TRASH TO LEARNING CLASSES
Sekolah Kami, or “Our School”, is an informal study group for scavengers and underprivileged children situated on the outskirts of Jakarta. Founded by Dr. Irina Amongpradja in 2001, Sekolah Kami provides free-of-charge education for grades 1 through 9 prior to vocational training. There are currently 120 students, excluding alumni for whom Sekolah Kami provides scholarships to public schools.
We provide all learning materials and necessities for the children, including transportation and meals during school hours. The school is self-financed, with partial sponsorship. The place we currently occupy was previously a scavenger’s shed and garbage disposal area. Gradually, we transformed this place into a learning and activity centre. It is now a beautiful complex of bamboo structures and green gardens filled with children’s laughter and enthusiasm.
Our students come from a scavengers’ community - one amongst many in Jakarta - which comprises of about 700 families who live and work from collecting, sorting, and reselling recyclables. Most families come from the North coast of Java and the majority do not have legal documents, which prevents them from receiving any government benefits. Parents allow their children to attend school primarily because they receive a free meal here (sometimes their only meal of the day), and secondarily in the hope that they will be the first in the family to achieve literacy.
After school, however, the children have to get down to work! They have to walk up to 5 kilometers from where the community is based to collect trash. They use huge sacks and pick selective recyclables. A child’s first dream is that one day, he or she will have a larger sack or "karung" than his father’s. We have made it our mission to change this mindset and to help them to achieve bigger and better life goals.