Expat Charitable Work

Sep 1st, 2008, in Opinion, by

Purba Negoro on how expats in Indonesia can lend a hand by helping and contributing to charitable organizations.

Expat Charitable Work in Indonesia

The majority of Expats in Indonesia are excellent model ambassadors for their country- a small, yet disproportionately vocal or poorly behaved tarnish a generally positive Indonesian image of the “bule”.

And just to make clear: “bule” is not a rude word – it’s just a word. We do not have any other short word for “whites”.

Anyway – the majority responsible expats are often fine example for many Indonesian-born to follow with particular regard to charitable work. I am particularly looking at the haughty nouveau riche.

Each post I will detail a specific charity. For those who wish to read ahead – material is available at: http://www.expat.or.id/info/givingback.html.

Today, I talk about a charity very active in my suburb: Cilandak, in South Jakarta. Many claim it is exclusively wealthy – no like all of Indonesia – the wealthy frequently interact with the very poor on a daily basis – we are not insulated from sad realities – unlike wealthy suburbs of Western cities.

Mother and Child Organisation:

Many Indonesian children are stunted in growth – which can be physical or mental. Even in former Soviet Union – iodine alone has been found to contribute 10% of IQ – and many former Soviet nations not receiving formerly free iodine-enriched table salt now seeing reverse in raised standards.

China has long been active with UNWHO to improve iodine intake of its majority very poor population and a very good model. The UNWHO has many articles one iodine deficiency in Africa alone and correlation to poverty etc.

Under-nutrition alone is an underlying cause of an estimated 53% of all under five year old deaths (UNICEF Report card on Nutrition May 2006).

The good news is all is preventable and all due to malnutrition and poor education – not genetics, not culture, not race, not skin colour, not locale.

Stunting is a very visible class differentiator in Indonesia- the poor are dwarfed by their wealthier countrymen – some kids these days are positively Raksasa= Giants! I have one distant niece who weighs 130 kilo and 190+ cm tall. Buset!

The Foundation for Mother and Child Health has set up a mother-and-child centre assisting impoverished families in urban Jakarta. The centre currently provides health, hygiene and nutrition education for mothers and community health workers; access to medical care for both mothers and children; Early Childhood learning, feeding programmes and growth monitoring for young children; and skills training for mothers.

Any and all help is very gratefully appreciated – http://www.motherandchildhealth.org/

May I add – many expats are tireless contributors for this charity and have made a very good name for themselves. I hope the few idiotic plebeian compatriots never tarnish their name.

9 Comments on “Expat Charitable Work”

  1. Brett says:

    Purba, This is so good of you to do. I have been planning to write something similar for a long time. Mother and Child is such a great place. I really encourage everyone to go and check them out. It’s quite moving to see how loving people can be.

    I really hope you write something about ANZA. I am on the committee of a small charitable foundation that raises money for children/education related projects. ANZA provide us with amazing support in terms of helping us find projects and doing all the things we could only do if we hired a full time staff. Because of ANZA, every cent we raise goes to the children/projects. The ANZA women are amazing.

    I think you will also find that ANZA is heavily involved in just about every charity listed on the expat.or.id page – including Mother and Child.

    As for the Indonesian (Jakartan?) noveau-riche? I wouldn’t hold your breath. Anyone who feels the need to drag two nannies around a mall and then makes them wait at the table while they eat lunch clearly has no concept of humanity and isn’t likely to give a damn about the suffering that goes on around them. It’s probably easier to just have them all shot – or deported to the West, where personal nannies, drivers and servants are reserved for the uber-wealthy.

  2. Andy says:

    Good last comment Brett, Purba as usual is plain wrong when he talks about the rich in Jakarta interacting with the poor. Oh yeah to hire nannies for less than 500,000rp a month which doesn’t even allow them to go out or spend money on anything other than pulse to sms their families in the warung or their bus fare back home for Idul Fitri.

    The shopping malls to me were sickening places with middle to upper classes spending more money in an afternoon than their nannies would spend in a year.

  3. Purba Negoro says:

    you have a very good point.
    However Rp 500,000 is just on the very margin of the legal government “award” rate.
    Of course, if one can afford to pay more- it is the moral obligation to do so.

    I know in Gucci store in Plaza Senayan, Gucci SPG-clerk earns Rp 1.5 million per month base rate. This is about standard.

    Of course- Indonesia has many lower living costs than the West- can you buy a bowl of bakso for Rp2500 ($USD 0.25) in the West?
    Generic Panadol, penicillin, iodine etc for less than Rp 1500 (USd $0.15) per strip (10 tabs)?
    In their kampung- maybe less than 500 Rp for same bowl of bakso? (USD $0.02)-
    Impossible in the West- so comparatively- the poor of Indonesia are in much better situation than their poor brothers of most of Asia- especially India and China.

    This is not to say we should puff ourself up and be content- no much still to do.

    The problem in Indonesia is inflation and CPI has outpaced salary- everyone is suffering- but we must also keep wages static- or face a greater evil- mass unemployment.
    Also we are forced by mainly Chinese, but also Indian depressed wages to keep Indonesian wages competitive for Westerner to exploit.
    The situation is very complex, but luckily temporary- when the economy improves- so will wages rise too.

    Also, one should consider, many maids are unskilled with jst passable literacy and numeracy often Grade 8-9 school leaver, often earlier. Yet they obtain salary approx 50% of trained store clerk, basic consumables free, rent free, food free.
    Personally I have lifted many maids out of poverty trap by helping them buy lands, seeds, cash-crop trees and animals in their kampung- so when they have children- there is a sustainable income for them.
    You will find many, many minor noble (like myself) and upwards do this and often sponsor maids’ child-birth, childrens’ education, healthcare, etc.
    I know of one man who bought 100 Hectar in Wonogiri for all of his servant- all have shard title.

    This highlight Javanese aristocrat cultural obligation of noblesse oblige- we who have means must be a good parent to our children- in this case maids.
    In Javanese mentality to display how truly wealthy you are, you give the more generously.
    Not external facade of trinkets, baubles and branded clothes.

    You would be very surprised how many mutli-millionaire here look like a messy gembel- a homeless person!

    But, absolutely true- there are also many anus-hole and stingy, mean, heartless people.
    But I would argue maids are generally treated far better at home- where they also have easy chance of escape- than externally.

    Nouveau riche and their displays of status through entourage of poor maid- very insulting to me and many others too.
    This is highly reflective of budak-slavery mindset.
    Very disgusting.

  4. timdog says:

    Purba Negoro does make a very good point when he highlights the fact that salaries for people who ought, in theory, to be way up the wage ladder from maids, are startlingly low. Graduates working in admin in offices, banks, top end hotels etc can be on base salaries of RP1 million – or even less. I know that one particular top end international hotel chain in Indonesia pays its “skilled” staff – ie. the ones who deal with custmers face to face, or do things with computers and telephones in back offices – a base salary of just Rp800 000 (which can, on a very good month, reach 2 million thanks to service charges)… God knows what they must pay their cleaners and pot washers. Their standard rooms cost about US150 per night; suites run into the thousands…

    It’s easy for cossetted, pompous ex-pats to declaim about the shockingly low wages paid to maids – unfortunately only because maids are the only “natives” about whose lives they have much awareness…

    The treatment of maids by some employers is an entirely different issue…

  5. Purba Negoro says:

    I agree with Andy and Timdog,

    we must discuss the issue openly with full information at hand. Timdog highlight the ture nature of “globalization” which is strictly speaking unrestricted flow of capital across national borders.

    Indonesia is slowly becoming a common outsource centre for many US company quite tired of China. Despite the hype and wonderful PR- China is very much like Indonesia- the bureaucracy is also nightmare to Westerner and incentives must be paid all along the way.

    I know too of many top-tier Hotels which pay less than 1 million per month gross for front desk staff- who MUST have minimum qualifictaion of Hospitality degree.

    Government bureaucrat mid-level graduate degree and above receives often less than Rp 3 million per month gross.

    Police officer Rp 2million per month, less for enlisted rank.

    Now we begin to see the root causes also for corruption and extra-work business dealings.

  6. Rob says:


    Are you getting soft in your old age?

    I have to beg to differ on the bule as a bad word thing. But this is an issue that has been played out on other threads and can be taken up again there if need be.

    One bad apple always spoils the bunch and this is what creates the negative stereotypes that many of us fall back into when we feel offended about what has been said about us in terms of putting us into that stereotype. You are right though that the greater majority of expats here do contribute in charitable ways and contribute consistently and often.

    The discussion on Indonesian wages and wage policy is probably better served in a specialized thread on the topic. This post is after all about charity and charitable bules, right?

  7. Indra says:

    Helo brett
    My name is indra and I’m interested in charity work as I have some free time and would like to make something meaningful out of it, please do contact me if you are ever in need of local indonesian in your charity programs. btw I’m 23 yrs old male and speak fluent english and chinese and of course indonesian, hope to hear from you soon.

  8. Hohn says:

    Purba Negoro, I think u’re a racist….

  9. Fr.Madanu Lourdu Vijay Kumar says:

    my name is Fr.Madanu Lourdu Vijay Kumar, iam a catholic priest from india, as a priest i visited several rural villages and seen many children and youth not going to school because of poverty. i would request the directors of the charitable foundations to show your concern towards these children.

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