A weekend at the orphanage Pa van der Steur, Jakarta. 

“From Friday 18th of august until 20th of august, I had the honor being part of the orphanage founded by Johannes van Der Steur in 1892, currently managed by Nel Borst.  

What pops into your mind when you think about an orphanage?

Try it.

Now throw it away. 

Just like you, my imagination took me from a desolated, old building with children with sad looking eyes, into my worst nightmares; thoughts you’d rather push away than let come through. 

But when I arrived at PvdS at 21 o’ clock, the gate from the 2 hectares big terrain opened, a neat, perfectly maintained path occurred with overarching jungle trees on the sides, leading to a white house with a beautiful open terrace decorated with colonial looking furniture, bamboo-chairs with white pillows and a bird cage on the side. 

A choir of 65 children stood beside the house, welcomed us with ‘Tante Nel’and her cousin Cherie in the middle of the dark, singing a beautiful song, with undistinguished sounds of Jakarta city far, far away in the background.

The next morning, the children started their Saturday with hockey training at 06:30. They were very eager to learn some techniques; they enjoyed the attention and showed their skills. When a young child got hit by a ball and cried, older children ran off to him to comfort him and within a second, the little one smiled again. I was very impressed by this. 

A couple of hours later, I walked across the terrain, when I heard some music coming out of the building where the boys slept. I was curious to know how big the sound box of their radio would be, since the music was kind of loud and I recognized the song. When I entered the room, I saw two boys playing the guitars themselves and one drumming, singing along. Shock! They taught these skills themselves, unbelievable! 

The children are (most of the time 😉 ) obedient, polite and their daily schedule is clear, learned by heart, a basis where they can rely on which causes a relaxed group atmosphere. 

All of this seemed almost idyllic to me. But the reality of course stays harsh. All of the children were brought in under-aged, have been through things most of us most likely and hopefully will never have to experience. Smiling faces hide the deepest scars of traumatic events we cannot imagine. I played with them, observed them. How can I contribute, what do they really need? 

An overload of toys, clothing and books is being sent to the orphanage from all over the world, which is fantastic. The children seem, relatively, having a quite okay amount of possessions, so keep up this good work. 

Talking to Tante Nel and Cherie, we conclude that one of the biggest fears/problems is the continuity of the orphanage. Who will lead the orphanage in the future? How can they make sure that the orphanage is not solely dependent on donations but becomes self-sufficient? What’s the strategy? How can they inspire and motivate their staff (70 people) to keep up their big amount of work? What is the best way to structure finance? Where should they invest in? And how do they keep attracting attention from sponsors? How do they provide the children with personal attention and psychological guidance they so highly need? 

Volunteers and knowledge. That’s what’s most welcome and needed right now. If you are or know someone that has some spare time, no matter if it’s a weekend, a week or a month (maybe someone looking for adventures in their gap year, or people making an extra stop during their holiday in Asia), if you are or know someone with the knowledge that’s needed, even if it’s just a small bit, if you are or know someone who’s looking for a safe, positive and very, very satisfying place to contribute something to the world and give some undivided attention to these lovely children, than don’t hesitate any longer and contact.”