Volunteering in Jakarta: Kampung Kids

When I first set foot on Jakarta, what became apparent to me was the great disparity between the rich and the poor. Some of the really poor live in overcrowded slums with poor sanitation and nutrition. As parents struggle to put food on the table, the last thing on their minds is probably education for their children.

I wanted to help but did not know where to go/ how to start. With the help of Mr Google (one of my best friends!) and a recommendation from another lady, I got to know of a Yayasan (foundation) called Kampung Kids.

Of the various Yayasans in Jakarta, Kampung Kids stood out to me because of their 3-phase program:

  1. Basic Nutrition – Young children as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are provided with one meal per day + a cup of milk.
  2. Education – Playgroups and tutoring classes are set up for children of all ages, some of whom have never attended school and are illiterate.
  3. Health and Hygiene – Quarterly health checks are provided by volunteer doctors/nurses; young children receiving milk are weighed monthly to check progress.

Since I was a teacher in my home country, volunteering to teach seemed almost natural. And so I sent an email to the coordinator (Julia) together with my resume, asking if I could volunteer with them. Julia replied that very night and said I could start the following Tuesday. Wow that was fast.

In the email, she gave me the location of Kampung Kids: Jln Pejaten Barat II, RT 011 RW 08.

What in the world was RT and RW??! I had no idea.

Anyhow, I entered the address into google maps but got the message “We could not find Jln. Pejaten Barat II, RT 011 RW 08. Make sure your search is spelled correctly. Try adding a city, state, or zip code.” Hmmm weird. I decided I would just attempt to find the place when I got there on the day itself.

On Tuesday, my driver and I managed to find the road Jln Pejaten Barat II. The houses on that road seemed hugeee and grand. I thought this was supposed to be a poor estate.

After circling around 3 times and asking around, we still could not find the house situated on RT 011 and RW 08.  As a last resort, I called Julia and she told me to wait at a particular cross-section in front of a white mosque. She would arrange for someone to come out and fetch me.

After about 10 minutes, a man in a purple shirt came up to us. He was riding a motor bike and told us to follow him. We followed him all the way to the end of the road where there was a small opening cum entrance. The entrance was too small for my car to enter so we parked outside. It almost seemed like The Wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narniaa portal that linked Earth through to the World of Narnia – except this one linked the world I live in and know about to the world of the poor.


Entrance to the kampung where the poorer people of Jakarta stay. You can see the disparity between the big houses leading up to the entrance and those of the kampung behind.

As I walked into the kampung, people smiled at me and waved to me. I happily waved back, greeting them with “Selamat Pagi!” which means Good Morning. Indonesians are generally very lovely and welcoming people.

Here are some pictures of the kampung. You can see that some of the houses are in desperate need of repainting and touching up.


A passage way only accessible by foot or by a motorbike.


I was surprised to see a nail salon!


That’s my driver (Pak Amrun) posing for me.


Friendly folks of the kampung.

After many turns and bends deep into the Kampung (I was thinking to myself I would never be able to find my way out!), I finally arrived at Kampung Kids. Dozens of shoes and slippers were sprawled outside the house because of an ongoing feeding programme.

A class of 5 to 6 year-olds (there were about 10+ of them) greeted me shyly. Almost all of them had never been to preschool and this was their first time in a class setting. Some were smaller in built for their age due to a lack of proper nutrition. A number of them looked at me fearfully as if I was going to have them for my lunch.

I flashed my best reassuring smile and introduced myself to them. It only took a while for the children to warm up and for the next part of the lesson, we learnt the letters ‘A’,’B’, and ‘C’. While walking around the class during penmanship practice time, I realised that a good half of the children did not even know how to hold a pencil! Looks like I’ll have to buy some penmanship books to work through with them.

Here are some pictures of the little ones in my class:

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Over the weeks, I’ve also taught English to the 9 to 10 year-olds. I was very comfortable working with that age group because back in my home country, I taught the middle primary group.

Here are some pictures of the older children in my class:

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I really enjoy my time spent with the kampung children. Although I go to the kampung with the purpose of teaching them English, they in turn always teach me little life lessons.

I always go home with my heart full. 🙂