I’ve been volunteering with the Little Fireface Project here in West Java for just over a year now and something has become extremely clear to me. I am surrounded by genuinely happy, sharing and unselfish children. Honestly, if you hear a child crying in the street, you know something has happened; they have fallen out of a tree or tripped over the stoney, uneven ground. Mothers (all mothers) run from their homes to see who is hurt. They find a child who is not crying because they didn’t get their own way or because they were asked to help with chores, they have hurt themselves.
Each day, for hours sometimes, I wander the village and stop and chat to all of the children, usually with hand gestures and my limited Bahasa Indonesian language skills. We understand each other. What I have learnt is that the children here are truly happy and content with what they have. I have discovered them playing games that my mum told me about playing when she was young.
The boys and girls here mix together and do not squabble over who has the best shoes or hairstyle. They play marbles, skip rope, fly kites, climb trees, play soccer, fish in their yard ponds and spend hours making mud, grass and leaf pies (YUM YUM!) and they play in the rivers when it is hot; splashing and laughing and taking dives in turn, no pushing, no shoving.
The children are given freedom here, they don’t worry about being kidnapped or run over by vehicles … the motorbikes give way to them. They are happy and they are allowed to be. They are encouraged to be children; to play in the rain and to get muddy feet. In fact, one of the first days in West Java I sat and watched in awe as the children were covered from head to toe in mud, whilst helping catch small fish for relocation in a drained pond. This included girls in their hijab (muslim clothing for girls). The parents have the attitude that the clothes can be cleaned and don’t think it is too much effort to do so. More often than not, the parents join in.
Little Fireface Project has a drawing/drama club at our field station every Tuesday and coloured pencils and paper REALLY are the biggest hit with the kids! They always come and colour and are very excited when they can take their fabulous artwork pieces home. These items, which are small things to our western world children, are a huge deal here. Not an ‘XBOX’ in sight in our village, I am pleased to say.
So, controversially perhaps, it is wonderful to see children be children and not be pampered so much that they grow up with a spoilt attitude. These village kids are independent, have loads of common sense and appreciate their life. They are also wonderfully sociable and don’t sit in the corner sulking if they are told NO! These kids just get on with it; they get on with life with a happy demeanour! They don’t have squillions of dollars, but they have lots of love, family time and a way of looking at what are everyday ‘things’ to us, in a new and appreciative way. It helps me do the same and I LOVE IT and appreciate them just as much. I feel I’ve won the lotto.
Sharon Williams – Field Station Coordinator/Environmental Education Officer