Building a Safe Home for Indonesian Children: Faye’s Changemaker Journey
In Indonesian, "Rumah" means home and shelter. Faye's story is about building a comfortable and safe shelter for exploited children. You may wonder, why child safety, and how did she build such a shelter? Well, problems can ignite sparks, and sparks can create solutions. But without thoughtfulness and curiosity, it is easy to overlook the problems surrounding us and issues in our community. Therefore, Faye's "home-building" story communicates the power of curiosity through her persistence to ask, research, reach out, and accept rejection.
Growing up in a family that emphasizes "to give" and "to serve," Faye had many opportunities to volunteer. She was most fond of visiting and serving in local orphanages and organizations dedicated to protecting children’s welfare. But nothing particularly stroked Faye until she first heard about human trafficking from her social justice class when she was nine years old. Her curiosity drove her to dig deeper into the topic.
After school, Faye returned home, and she immediately sat in front of her mom's computer. The first thing Faye did was research. “I want to learn more about it”, searching through news articles and human rights reports. She found out that there is more to human trafficking than she ever imagined. It is about coerced child-trafficking: forced child labor and children of her age being abducted for sexual exploitation. Unnerved, the more she scoured the internet, the more she realized that injustices like child-trafficking are happening widely around the world and within her own country and community.
Faye was in shock by the numbers and the statistics, but determined to respond to the inhumanity. So the second thing she did was to reach out. Over two years, Faye wrote a hundred hand-written letters to NGOs asking if she could learn more about child trafficking and get involved with their work. Although only four organizations replied to Faye, her persistence still opened some doors. She began to volunteer at these organizations as a peer and a mentor by talking with children who had experienced abuse.
While volunteering, she began to realize two major issues. One is that most organizations are NGOs from abroad, and many foreign employees do not understand the culture of the communities they serve. Instead, they tend to implement projects with a "one shoe fits all" approach, a model that Faye rejects. Another issue she discovered is that the staff and the system the organizations operated within are out-dated by only responding to the problem, and therefore unable to make a sustainable impact to successfully end and prevent child trafficking.
Feeling deeply unsatisfied, Faye turned to her mother. But her mother said, "you have to find paths yourself, but I will 100% support you." This encouragement gave Faye the confidence to act on a budding idea: to start a fully Indonesian-ran non-governmental organization for vulnerable children in her own country.
Again, Faye returned to her family’s commuter to conduct more research online, quickly finding herself on the U.N's website to unearth inspirations for her proposal. And again, the second thing she did was to reach out. Faye began to meet mentors to learn about budgeting and planning. She also recruited volunteers on a smaller scale to help with initial implementation of her idea, which she named “Rumah Faye”, or Faye’s Home. During this initial stage, Faye's mother was always there. "My mom helped me to open doors, both morally and financially."
With guidance and support, her persistence and determination gradually returned some results. As more volunteers and interns joined Faye’s team, Rumah Faye grew. Faye was able to expand the organization as she wished in her initial idea, successfully building a safe house for children. Today, Rumah Faye offers a comprehensive prevention, rescue, and recovery program that aims to decrease the number of children in the illegal workforce and provide vocational and educational opportunities for survivors.
Today, Rumah Faye has 30 volunteers in Jakarta and 5 more volunteers in Batam. They have a staff of four in Jakarta - five if you count Faye's mother who support the venture - and a staff of 11 in Batam. In Batam, the staff is comprised of ‘mothers’, two security guards, one accountant, and five members operating the prevention and rehabilitation programs, all who have backgrounds in counselling for children.
Although there were many times when Faye felt too emotional and vulnerable in front of some extreme cases, there is one story that always reminds Faye of Rumah Faye's mission and reaffirms her changemaking path.
Right after Faye started Rumah Faye, a girl of her age came to her to talk about sexual assault. At that time, she felt puzzled, "why did she talk to me? I am not a therapist. I am also a kid." But after more talking, she realized that kids are comfortable with her because of her age, and they felt like talking to friends. That is also precisely why victims feel comfortable with Rumah Faye. Like what Faye always wanting to do, she did build a comfortable home for the survivors.
Being a young changemaker herself, Faye also raises her concerns; "It's bad when people make changemaking inaccessible and competitive." Often, She sees that adults use "you don't understand," and "you are too young" to assume a young person's potential. Having faced many rejections, doubts, and the lack of professional guidance in her journey so far, Faye doesn't want to see other young changemakers fall into the same trap. So, she actively makes herself available for those who need her. Faye is determined to enable other aspiring young changemakers access resources and acquire tangible skills they need to create change, the step by step change from one’s own community.
Talking about future plans for Rumah Faye, without any hesitance, Faye says, "we are working for impact, not for growth. We focus on long-term and sustainable change." Realizing male exploitation also exists but lacks the same resources, Faye hopes to establish a statehouse and a safe space for boys who have experienced human trafficking in the near future.
The 18-year-old now envisions a curious, thoughtful, and engaging world where people can abandon their willful ignorance and, instead, engage in supportive collaboration. She thinks her generation is collaborative and resourceful, so everyone has the potentials to make positive change, if they want to. "We as youth have imagination; we have rights; we have voice and power. The question is, are we using the power we have for the greater good?"
This story was written by Anastasia Zhang and edited for clarity.