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Dolphin Group Takes Community From Sink To Swim

Yayasan Sosial Lumba-Lumba (literally translates as Dolphin Social Foundation) is in a dilemma. After more than 26 years serving the fisherfolk community in North Jakarta, the foundation has yet to find new blood to take over its work. ''We're not getting any younger, yet no one has taken an interest in taking over after we have gone,'' the foundation's chairwoman, Yovita Soeparman, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. The foundation runs a number of activities aimed at improving the general health care and education of a community of 01 administrative unit, Kalibaru subdistrict, Cilincing district in North Jakarta. It began in 1977 with two American Catholic priests of the Cilincing Holy Cross parish, Robert Boudhuin and Vincent Cole Maryknoll, who made the area the parish's social project. When the two were called to other countries in 1981, they left the work to six members of the parish - wives of soldiers living in the area - to take over. ''Conditions at the time were very sad, plenty of children were being born but many were dying from malnutrition, personal hygiene was nonexistent and children washed themselves in the ocean,'' Yovita said. The group began by advocating personal hygiene and providing nutritious food to reduce the child mortality rate. ''We began with the 14 children of the 10 local housewive who decided to help us. We gave the children nutritious food and taught them about good personal hygiene, such as washing with soap,'' she said. At first, resistance was high. A mostly Muslim neighborhood, parents were wary of the Catholic newcomers. But as the foundation's work began to show, the community warmed up to it and the number of children helped grew to about 600 children after 1981. ''We had to establish three informal integrated health services posts (Posyandu), but afterward, with the help of the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN), we had a formal Posyandu and a family planning clinic,'' Yovita said. The foundation's first office was a bamboo stilt house with a sago-leaf roof, but as its activities grew it got permission from the local authorities to fill in part of the beach and build a wooden shack with a clam shell and mud floor. ''But in 1983 we finally received funding from the Lions Club Metro to build this more permanent place,'' she said, indicating the simple, nondescript building on JI. Kalibaru Timur. As the child mortality rate decreased the problem of education became more apparent. At that time children there had little or no schooling and the majority of parents were illiterate small-time contract fishermen. In 1982 the foundation established a preschool for children, and study groups for parents to learn to read and write, and ideally obtain their elementary school certificate. ''This was important for them because in the past, loan sharks took advantage of their ignorance and ripped them off,'' Yovita said. Today, 75 percent of the community's adult population can read and write, while the school attendance rate for children is about 70 percent. ''We're very happy about the foundation's presence here, it's good for the children to get an education,'' neighborhood unit No. 10 head Bowo Lesmana told the Post. The preschool started with simple lessons like showering with soap, hand washing, keeping clean, dressing tidily, as well as an introduction to the alphabet and numbers. Now the Cilincing Dolphin e Preschool has 145 students and three teachers, and classes run from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., following the national preschool curriculum. Funding and aid for the activities comes from different sources, an annual budget from the Fasting for Development Act of the Archdiocese of Jakarta, various Catholic schools in Jakarta, as well as private companies. Small children were squirming in their seats and raising their hands in competition to be the first to answer questions posed by visitors to the Cilincing Dolphin preschool, Wednesday.

Consumer goods company PT Unilever together with local minimarket chain Indomaret was visiting the school as part of the comparries'social program, teaching students about clean, healthy and wise living. Bringing with them ice cream, snacks, as well as school equipment, the companies taught children about the importance of washing their hands before eating, brushing their teeth and throwing rubbish in the bin. The two companies also donated Rp 21.5 million (about US$2,300) to the school. Yovita said that as result of their preschooling, children were able to continue to nearby State Elementary School No. 9 and 10, as well as to pursue a higher education. ''But mostly. after Junior high school they take up their parents fishing work, it's difficult to change the mind set of generations,'' she said. And while some do finish senior high school and vocational school, they prefer going out to other parts of Jakarta to find work than continue doing the good work of the Dolphin Foundation. ''Dolphins live in the ocean, like to help, and can be taught. That's how people here came up with the name of the foundation, it's the same with the community here,'' Yovita said. While the search for new foundation leaders continues, Yovita said that she and the original six women would continue as best they can. (The Jakarta Post, 29 Juni 2006)

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