When in general children and adolescents can play and learn as they wish, some children in Wee Limbu Village must be able to learn to be independent because they live without appropriate upbringings from their parents.
In the village located in Wewewa Sub-district, Southwest Sumba, about 10% of the citizens work as migrant workers. Most of them decide to work in other region or abroad because of customary debt they bear such as for wedding dowry (belis) and funeral costs (ke’dde).
Wedding and funeral rituals in this region require people of Wee Limbu to spend substantial costs, such as the costs of 7-10 buffaloes or the equivalent of IDR 140 million. This inevitably makes them become migrant workers and are forced to leave their families in the village. Some migrant workers must leave their 1-13 year old children under the care of their parents, closest families, even their neighbors.
Armiati Bata or familiarly called Armi is one of the children of Wee Limbu Village who has been left by her mother to work as a migrant worker in Malaysia since she was at the second grade of elementary school. A month after his mother’s departure, Armi’s father fell ill and passed away. Hearing the news, Armi’s biological mother collapsed and suffered a concussion. The incident made her mother forbidden to have a contact with Armi’s family. Until now, Armi has never heard any slight news about her mother.
Apart from Armi, there are still 115 other children of migrant workers in Wee Limbu Village who also grow up without the care from their parents. Some of their parents do not even have a clear marital status and have not been recognized traditionally because they have not paid the wedding dowry (belis). Because of this, these children do not have important documents that can be used to access various basic services, such as health and education services.
Another difficulty that must be faced by children of migrant workers is the big potential of violence to occur to them. Agustina Lingüística Lango (45) is a mother who have witnessed the violence experienced by children of migrant workers in her area. These children often get violence and pressure from their “new family”, ranging from verbal violence to physical violence. This results in children being scared of meeting or talking with other people.
Their need to access education is also quite difficult to fulfill because their time is spent working in the field or looking after livestock. Because of this, their achievements in school tend to decline.
In neighboring villages, children of migrant workers even experience sexual harassment from their own families. This is what concerned and encouraged Agustina to visit the children of migrant workers at their homes.
This concern led Agustina to meet with Donders Foundation and four other cadres in Wee Limbu Village to attend training on children, leadership, parenting, children’s rights, and organization. These training later made her able to build wider communication and relations with community leaders and village government officials.
Agustina and four other cadres then became the “stars of change” for the children of migrant workers in Wee Limbu Village by taking a multistakeholder approach to discuss the future of these children.
This approach is ultimately able to open the hearts and minds of foster parents, traditional figures and the community, as well as the government to mutually understand the needs of children of migrant workers to having “space” to share with other children so they are no longer stigmatized as children without parents.
The needs of children of migrant workers to be able to learn and be creative are facilitated by the presence of Umma Pande. On Sumba land, umma means ‘home’, while pande means ‘smart’. If a home is usually a place to live, umma for the people of Sumba serves as a place of discussion and a symbol of togetherness and solidarity.
Umma Pande is present as a ‘smart home’ for children in Wee Limbu Village to produce fruits of goodness; Intelligence values for children while remaining in line with local wisdom as the basis of humanitarian movement.
Erna Erisa Hoar (43) is one of the Star Change cadres who donated her land to be built into Umma Pande. For Erna, the children of migrant workers are her children whose right to be able to learn and play comfortably, should be fulfilled.
“We donated this to children because they are also my children. We want these children to be better and become exemplary children for other children,”” said Erna when asked why she gave the land away for Umma Pande.
Umma Pande is a result of mutual cooperation and a real contribution by the community to the future of children of migrant workers. The 63 square meters house was built from the donation of 25 families, each of which was in the form of wood and bamboo, cash, building materials, food, and strength.
The tower-shaped house that is like common traditional Sumba houses was built within 90 days with all the walls and floors made of bamboo. The house built on 525 square meters of land then became a spacious and comfortable space for children to learn, to play and to garden.
Now, every 3 to 5 pm, Umma Pande is always crowded with the voices of children that gather, play and dance. At this house, children can learn how to write, to draw, to make crafts, to dance, to sing, to read poetry, and to make speeches. These children are trained by traditional leaders, foster parents, star of changes cadres, volunteers from outside Sumba, and Donders Foundation staffs.
The presence of Umma Pande also highly influenced the efforts of various parties to protect children of migrant workers. Further than that, the cadres also succeeded in gathering women, young people and traditional leaders to discuss various problems at the village level and to find solutions.
Since then, the number of community members and cadres has continued to grow. The number of Star of Change cadres who were initially only 5 people, has increased to ten people. The women in Wee Limbu Village has also began to actively engage in creative economic activities to support their economy.
Collaboration between cadres and village government is getting stronger. This is proven by the issuance of 80 Family Cards, 100 birth certificates, 10 Healthy Indonesia Cards, and 100 Smart Indonesia Cards submitted by cadres.
The fruits of goodness from Umma Pande was getting ripened with the birth of new ideas from the community to establish facility for Early Childhood Education and Development (PAUD) Peduli in April 2018. The establishment of PAUD Peduli was driven by the number of children aged 2 to 4 who were not ready for school.
Umma Pande is present not only as a home, but also a place to share for all communities. A traditional leader from Wee Limbu Village, Agustinus Ndamalero, said, “Umma Pande is an important matter for us parents. Umma is a cultural symbol that is almost forgotten. We are proud that children can learn about the symbol of Sumba’s wealth because then they will not forget Sumba’s identity. This house is also a place to build cooperation between children of migrant workers and other children in the village.”
Together with the entire community of Wee Limbu Village, Umma Pande is present as a symbol of hope for children of migrant workers and other children to grow into an intelligent, creative and independent generation; which will produce more fruits of goodness for Sumba Island.
“For you, Sumba, I’m standing here”.