In a time that feels less “real” than my dreams, I decided to deliberate on what I can personally do to contribute to my own community in Jakarta and had a series of learnings that I wanted to share.
My friends and I sat down, and decided to start a project that aimed to feed impoverished children around Jakarta in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which made food insecurity increasingly prominent for many families. At first, we began by contacting a school for underprivileged children in the Kelapa Gading area called BKS. There were a total of forty students of varying ages that were being enrolled in the school and every single student faced the risk of having no access to food as their parents had just recently become unemployed because of the pandemic. I felt appalled that this many children would be denied access to basic necessities like food in this case.
We thereafter began by asking close friends and family for donations which would then be used to buy standard food supplies such as rice and cooking oil, allowing these children to have access to food. Unfortunately though, my friends and I had to begin by using our own money in order to feed these children for the first couple weeks because no one was willing to donate due to everyone’s financial burdens because of the pandemic. We quickly realized however that using our own money in order to support this project would be unsustainable considering the costs of feeding forty families and our status as full-time students. Eventually though, after the creation of an instagram account for our project, we began to receive more donations as we posted pictures and started promoting our project – 80% of the donations came from people we did not know personally. Eventually, we received enough donations to support and expand our project further. We plan on continuing to expand so long as there are enough donations being made to support the project, which I hope there will be, and as long as there’s a need.
This project advanced my thinking capabilities in many ways. First, it encouraged me to act as a leader, as it were, in organizing and being in charge of finances it also forced me to be more pessimistic in my view of things. This was due to the fact that my friends did not take into consideration the many aspects of this project that allowed it to continue functioning such as a continuous flow of funds to pay for transportation and food costs. It also probed me to further think about how organisations are built and what is the actual recipe for success.
In light of the current environment, I understand that everyone is doing the best they can to try and cope with the current situation by binging K-dramas or perhaps learning a new skill like baking, or a new language, but it is still important to consider the fact that many others in the world are experiencing great amounts of suffering which would seem unreal for those of us at home.The definition of “real” has entirely changed.
The impact of COVID, just like any other life-changing event, can be understood in stages. I would break it down as follows: (1) anxiety and paranoia, (2) a desire to help others in need, and finally, (3) a strong sense of empathy and compassion for those in need.
I know that COVID has had many more negative impacts than positive, but perhaps stage (3) is our silver lining. Are we becoming kinder individuals? I certainly feel that my mindset has changed from “I” to “we”, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same.
Perhaps at the end of the day, it’s truly important to note that everyone is doing the best they can. And, perhaps that is what my story shows.