Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gleni’s Story: The Little Things That Counts...

On Thursday, 2nd of July I had the amazing opportunity to visit my boyfriends sponsor child in Central Java, Indonesia. The program is run by Compassion Australia (

This trip is not my first time. I went with Simon last year to visit his sponsor kids. My friend Simon is my source of inspiration in dealing with this kind of issues. He's like the king of being compassionate to children in poverty. He's been the Canberra's Compassion advocate leader for 3 years and has got 7 sponsor kids. 5 in Indonesia, 1 in Uganda, Africa and another in Thailand. He's got all that to give and he's only 1 year older than me (24). To me, he's like the modern day version of Sir William Wilberforce.
My boyfriend's sponsor child name is Gleni. To visit Gleni, we went to an area outside Semarang (central Java) called Ambarawa... this place is totally amazing! It’s very green and they have lots of plantations like padi fields, longan trees, coffee, corn, vegetables and flower nurseries.

When we stopped in front of the school we were stunned with the breathtaking view in front of his school. I mean, the whole area is already very nice, but to have a view of your own is really super cool! At night you can see the lights flickering in the middle of darkness. It's so beautiful, I wish I could live here.

This is my first time to visit a child as my own and I was hoping that Gleni is not shy. I wouldn't have a clue of what to do! As it turns out, he was very very veeeery shy. I know that when a child meet his/her sponsor for the first time, they're always shy and therefore it is normal, but I'm so not prepared for this! He wouldn’t say anything to me and it’s almost as if he’s reluctant to meet me. I tried to ask him questions and tried to get him to show us around the school... and he just walked back to his class and did more of his drawing. All of us just kindda stood there and laugh, it felt really awkward.

While Gleni is doing his drawing we had a good chat with the project staff in the office. We talked a lot about how the project is run, what the child get through the sponsorship, about Glenis performance in the project (school report card, health, growth, church attendance, involment in activities, etc...) and the situation of Gleni’s family. I was very impressed with the amount information they have filed on the child. It gives me the sense of security that Gleni is in good hands.

We went to visit Gleni’s house after visiting the project, accompanied by a couple of the project staff. While we were there, I got Greg to ring my mobile phone so that he can talk directly to Gleni. Gleni was extremely shy that he only managed to say one word at a time... and that also requires hard work from Erlan convincing him to talk playfully. I also have some presents from Greg to give to Gleni. He got Gleni a kangaroo doll and an Australian flag, but the highlight of the present was the Transformer robot toy. Gleni was totally absorbed as soon as he saw the toy!

This is how Gleni's story go:

Gleni is mostly taken care by his grandmother. Everyday, she would take him to the school, or the project, and she’d wait outside the building until he’s done and afterwards take him back home. His grandfather is the family’s source of income. He works as a labourer, and the work is seasonal. Sometime the grandmother helps the family income by collecting enceng gondok (a water plant) that grows in swamps near the area. The plants are worth Rp150 per bunch. When it’s dried, it’s the price goes up to Rp2.000 (20 cents) per bunch. Gleni’s father had left his mother for another wife. The mother then remarrys and had Gleni’s little brother, Agung... we don’t know for sure but it seems that he had also left her.... The mother is unemployed.

The pictures below are the water plants that they collect and the dried version of the plant.

My favorite time there was when I had the chance to read Greg’s letter (which I have translated to Indonesian) to them. The grandmother was in tears as I was reading the letter and it really touched me deeply. Learning about Gleni’s financial and family situation made me sink.... When Greg sponsored Gleni he had no idea who they are and their situation. He didn’t really know that behind those forms that he filled and the money that got deducted automatically from his account in his sleep goes a very long way for Gleni’s family. It made me realize that how sometimes the small things that we do... the ones that are effortless, the ones that we don’t really think about, really makes a difference for someone else. Maybe it's time for me to think more highly of the little things that I do.

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