MAMA SAYANG ORPHANAGE: Every Child Deserves a Future

Situated in Cileungsi, Bogor, the Mama Sayang Orphanage is a bit of a challenge to get to. To keep us from getting lost, Mike Hilliard, founder of the orphanage, offered to meet us halfway as we made our way to the orphanage. We met him at the McDonalds not far from the Cibubur toll gate, and completed the remaining 45-minute commute led by Mike’s car. Along the way we passed the Taman Buah Mekar Sari (Mekar Sari Amazing Tourism Park) before reaching Citra Indah Bukit Menteng, the housing complex where the orphanage is situated.

Peace and tranquility reign in the housing complex area. On a rainy afternoon, we sat down with Mike to hear the story of how the Mama Sayang Orphanage came to be.

How it all started

Mike and Jev resided in Tanjung Priok before moving to Cileungsi. There they worked in an orphanage and learned that an appalling scandal had taken place. The lady that ran the orphanage was selling babies and eventually the police shut the place down. “That gave us an interest in [starting an] orphanage.” Mike explained, “We tried to run our own orphanage. We had learned what not to do.”

The orphanage started with 10 kids. Mike and Jev found these kids on a trip to the very remote villages in Kalimantan. Noted Mike, “The kids in Jakarta can put out their hands and get some coins. But if you live far from the main road, nobody comes.”

As they went into the village they saw that the kids were absolutely impoverished. “They had nothing. So Jev and I thought, this is the time to find help. We talked to the headman as well as the local police to see if we could take 10 kids back with us and educate them in Jakarta. As soon as we said that they were so happy that they wanted to give us 20 kids!  But, I couldn’t take so many. We told them we could only take 10 first.”

The grounds across from Mike & Jev’s residence were available. They renovated the space to make it suitable for 12-15 children.  Overtime however, the need became such that it was later altered to accommodate 88 kids and staff. Now, 9 years later, there are two houses and 125 kids in the orphanage.  Mike & Jev’s residence accommodates the girls and the house across the street is reserved for the boys.

Today, apart from the orphanage, the Talitha Cumi foundation also operates the St. Enoch School for kids in Kindergarten through High School. The school is open to the public and isn’t exclusively for children living in the orphanage. This is how the foundation earns additional income. Then there’s the Bob-Uli clinic which offers free health care to the poor in the surrounding villages. It has a full-time  nurse who works everyday from 12 noon to 5:00 p.m. in the surrounding villages to care for the sick while the doctor visits every Saturday. Attached to the clinic is the old folks home which currently looks after two individuals, a blind man and a disabled lady who is in her 60s. They are cared for by the kids in the orphanage as part of their educational program. Mike shared with us, “Jev used to work in an old people’s home when we lived in Scotland. There, the orphans cared for the elders. This makes the elders feel young again, to be surrounded by little children.”

Every month, the foundation needs to have Rp 100 million to be able to operate the orphanage, the schools, clinic, and the old folks home. Meanwhile, the regular funds coming in are Rp 47 million. “The rest I have to find,” Mike told us. When he’s not helping  Jev in the orphanage, Mike is teaching bible classes at colleges, preaching, as well as teaching on Sundays in different churches. He also works in a rehabilitation centre. “I have a pension. My wife has a small pension. And everything I get from my preaching, teaching, and working at the drug rehab in Sentul City, all goes to help Mama Sayang.”

Who are the kids?

About 15% of the children at the orphanage are orphans, while the rest come from parents with financial difficulties or have simply been abandoned.  The youngest child living at Mama Sayang is a 14-month old girl born to a teenage mother. There’s also a child, who used to be raised by a financially incompetent grandparents before being taken by the orphanage.

Mike notes that often, “The church will call us and ask if we can take a child. The ones who don’t come from the church have heard of us by word of mouth. We’ve never had to advertise.”

One moment that had changed our perception that Mama Sayang was an ordinary orphanage was when Mike shared with us that the kids there, who are around 10 to 14 years old, are very difficult and rebellious children who have been rejected by other orphanages due to their bad behavior.

To educate these children, Mike (who is called “Uncle” by the  kids) and Jev (who is called “Mama Jev”) implement a strong practice of discipline mixed with lots of love. “With the combination of the two, we believe we’ve got good system and the kids have responded to this,” said Mike. “The kids must follow some rules at the orphanage. They have to be disciplined, take care of themselves, and look after the elders at the old people’s home. That’s how we mold them.”

On weekdays, the kids get up at 4:00 a.m. for an hour of prayer and bible study. At 5:00 a.m. the children have chores to do in the house. There are only four staff members on duty to watch the 125 kids in the orphanage. So, the kids must be able to look after themselves and do their own cleaning, washing, and ironing. “Jev is very keen on the kids having to be independent,” Mike said. “So when the kids leave here the boys and the girls could look after themselves. They are even asked to do the cooking so they learn how to do it.” At 6:30 a.m. they get ready for school. Kids leave for school at 7:00 and are back for lunch at twelve o’clock. At one o’clock they go back for school. The St. Enoch School, where the kids study, is only a two minute walk away. The school finishes at four or five o’clock and the children come back to the orphanage to relax. Six o’clock is the time of evening prayer. They have dinner at 7:00 p.m. then they go wash up, clear everything away, and mess around until nine o’clock when they have to go to bed. The kids do sports every Saturday.

High Quality Education for the Kids

The orphanage mission is to provide the children with access to quality education, security, as well as opportunities to work after they’ve finished their schooling. Only those who are academic enough have a chance to continue to the university. So far, there have been 15 Mama Sayang kids who have gone on to universities. “We had one girl already graduate from President University in Bekasi and now she works for Acer,” said Mike. “She will come to us on weekends to teach the kids English and math.” For the most part the universities give a good deal to the kids who study at their institutions. Another happy story comes from Esther, one of the brightest children in the orphanage. She’s 18 years old and currently a rotary exchange student in Australia. She will be back in July to continue her study at the Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH) through a scholarship program in civil engineering. Apart from Esther, six of the girls in Mama Sayang are currently studying at a catering school. One of the boys has been granted a scholarship to Malaysia to study catering. Meanwhile, 16-year-old  Denise is going to study Japanese cuisine in Japan.

We also had a chat with two of the senior kids, Rizal and Yosi, who will soon finish high school. Rizal, a 20-year-old who came to the orphanage when he was 14, has plans to go to Bali and work on a  cruise ship. Meanwhile Yosi, who entered the orphanage when he was 16, told us that he’d like to continue on to the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ) and take the Visual Communication Design program. He expressed how fortunate he has been to be given such an opportunity to change, while the boys that he used to be friends with (at his former school) have mostly ended up in jail. Yosi currently plays for the Jakarta Bintangs Australian football team and has traveled to Thailand and Bali for tournaments.

There’s so much that these kids can achieve if only the opportunities are provided.  With help from their sponsors, the Mama Sayang orphanage does exactly that.

How can we help?

According to Mike, it’s not easy to find sponsors. Mike and Jev  are on their own, which is why they are always looking for help. Their priority is to get sponsorship for education. You can help by sponsoring a child in school. The school’s computers also need an upgrade as most of them are Pentium 2. If what you have is time, you can give your Saturday mornings to teach the kids math and English or be creative with the kids by doing art projects.

People who have helped Mama Sayang have seen that the foundation is not corrupt. If a certain amount of money is designated for specific purpose for the kids, that’s where the money goes. “We don’t play around with the money,” said Mike. “We are audited once a year, so the place is run transparently and people understand that. That’s why they helped us.”

Fred Alloysius from Aphrodite is one of the people who have helped the orphanage. “We went to Aphrodite night club about four or five years ago, to sing carols,” Mike told us.  “Fred asked us. We never met Fred before. The people in the night club, they just loved it. They thought it just fantastic. Fred passed around a hat and people put money in. We’ve been doing that every Christmas ever since. Fred will also get a list of what the kids would like to have for Christmas, and he will ask the customers to help. On Christmas day they come out here with some customers from Aphrodite and give our kids presents. Fred is absolutely fantastic. If there were more people like Fred, the world would be a better place.”

Additional help came recently om WhatsNewJakarta which conducted a book sale during Jakarta Highland Gathering. The amount of money collected was Rp 6,575,000 and was donated to the Talitha Cumi  foundation.

Sine Thomsen is one of the orphanage’s most passionate supporters. She shared with us her story about her involvement with Mama Sayang orphanage.

“As I had just arrived to the country and thus did not have a very large social group, I spent my time focusing on the orphanage in ways I could help them. It was here, I initially started making a website for it in my native language (Danish) which I then passed around to all my friends and family in my home country. The supportive response I got from the various people I had sent it to was overwhelming. It enabled me to cover for two rather serious surgeries, exam costs for the many graduating children, clothes, and much more.

The next thing I decided on doing was to make flyers/leaflets in English for me to hand out.  I ensure that everyone I stumble upon receives on.

The needs at the orphanage remained great, so I decided on looking at more ways to collect funding and support for the orphanage on the internet. I sent my story to the various big companies throughout Denmark, many of which came and offered their help to aid the orphanage. LEGO has sent toys to 125 children and a high school is in the process of sending 50 computers.

An idea struck me one day that would essentially allow for a number of the youngsters in the orphanage to attend university. It would consist of “adopting” a child and thus sponsoring all the costs of their education while being involved in the child’s doings. A Finnish friend of mine did the same and we are extremely excited to see how it turns out. It would be incredible if more people were to help in the same way, and there would also be the opportunity for several individuals to sponsor one child and share the costs.

Mama Sayang is in need of financial support every month to get through and that which I see as the best aid in this case, would be to find local companies to sponsor these children/the orphanage and support them with a fixed monthly amount. This would enable Mike and  Jeveline to plan and prepare for the future.”

Sine is open for any question. Visit her website, www.mamasayang.dk or email her at sinethomsen@mac.com.

Source: Now Jakarta