Thursday, July 24, 2014

Have you ever bought someone a house?


Neither have we but I bet we can make a difference for Boni, Titi & Ho, the three gifted, charismatic street musicians in this feature-length documentary called JALANAN which is a drama/comedy/romance/musical all rolled into one. Although they're living on the streets of Jakarta, struggling to hack out a basic living in the margins of society, they don't act like victims or grow bitter but retain their cheeky personalities, their hopeful spirit and their good hearts. They laugh more than most wealthy people I know. They celebrate life. They are an inspiration to us all!

The producer of the movie tried to think how he could improve their lives through this film. To be sure, the awareness that it generates will benefit – at least in a small way – their immediate community, and perhaps even marginalized people in other places too. A film doesn’t fix lives, but it can bring acknowledgement, which for many of these people is really all they ask.

But he still wanted to find a way of leaving them with a better life after the film than they had before it. While they will always be responsible for their fate and need to continue working hard and acting responsibly, he wanted to do his part in helping them move forward in life.

Assisting them financially seems logical, but he had learned through years of experimentation that handing them money – as in cash – never works. No matter how much you give, it’s gone two weeks later. And it’s not even their fault: as soon as they come into any sort of money, they're under intense pressure from family members, friends and neighbors to help them out. Indeed, in Indonesian culture it would be unthinkable not to.

So any money he gives them inevitably ends up helping a cousin make payments on his motorbike, a neighbor fix her roof, or a sibling buy new clothing. None of this is bad, of course, but it meant that just days after a modest financial windfall, those buskers were no better off than they were before. He found this frustrating and wanted to find some form of assistance that would be for them, and wouldn’t just disappear.

So he decided to try to buy them each a house. Something that will be theirs to keep. A place they can live or rent out or raise kids in. It won’t be large or fancy or even in a good neighborhood, because he won’t realistically be able to raise that kind of money. But Boni, Titi & Ho are humble individuals accustomed to living simply (Boni lived in a sewage tunnel for 10 years) so just owning a home, no matter how modest, will be a dream come true.

A house with a legitimate land certificate is also a much harder thing to take away from them. The certificates will be deposited with a third party so that the buskers cannot be pushed into pawning off their property no matter how intense the pressure may be from those around them. With lives that are constantly in flux, their houses should be the one non-negotiable asset that stays with them forever.

A simple one-bedroom house in a low-income neighborhood in Jakarta will cost at least $15,000 and so the overall fundraising target will be $50,000. If a thousand people each put up $50, Boni, Titi and Ho's lives will be turned around for ever!

We at "Riverbend" Cottage want to be part of this transformation and decided that for every booking we receive from now on, we will donate $50 in our guests' names to Boni, Titi and Ho's Housing Fund.

So next time somebody books themselves a holiday at "Riverbend" Cottage, they won't just have a wonderful time but also leave feeling proud and warm and fuzzy inside for having made a difference to three young people's lives. And since the donation is in their name, they will also receive a copy of the movie JALANAN when it is released on DVD.


Donated so far:
  • US$50 on behalf of Michelle & James Thompson
  • US$50 on behalf of Elaine & Mike Maffei
  • US$50 on YOUR behalf?



P.S. Of course, they don't have to stay at "Riverbend" Cottage to make a donation. They can also directly DONATE HERE. And if they have been touched by Boni, Titi and Ho's story, we hope they will tell their friends!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Edge of Bali


Three people travel to Bali for very different reasons. All three are on the edge, unsure of whether they should stay in Bali any longer, but are increasingly drawn into the heart of this complex and alluring island. One of the three travellers in the story states with contempt:

"The hotel’s farthest fence had a gate that led to the beach, and there, too, its billboard reminded you that inside it was the way you want Bali to be. And eat your heart out everyone else, because Bali isn’t the way you want it to be. Bali has dirt and poverty and armies of hustlers trying to make a dollar, and if you can’t get behind a big, wealthy wall you can’t miss it."

I have often wondered what Bali was like before it became fouled by tourism. Before plastic accumulated in refuse dumps outside of each family compound. Before, when the tropical air wasn’t filled with billowing, yellow smoke as families burned their garbage alongside the road every night.

The Edge of Bali is a classic example of a book that should never have gone out of print.