Mon, 21 Aug 2000

Street kids play joyfully at TMII children's fair

JAKARTA (JP): "I ain't had no lovin' since you been gone... why don't you come on home... Corrina, Corrina, I love you so."

Ten street kids sang the lyrics of Big Joe Turner's 1950 popular song in a stage performance at the Children's Fair 2000 at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) in East Jakarta on Sunday.

Armed with two acoustic guitars, one bongo and a double bass played by an older friend, the children, aged between six and 15, sang with gusto.

"We have been asked to sing in many places," Aloy, 13, a member of the group, told The Jakarta Post after the performance.

"Monas (National Monument) recreational area in Central Jakarta and Ancol Recreational Park in North Jakarta are among the places we have performed at."

He said that he and other group members used to move from one place to another as street kids before they started living at the Anak Nusantara shelter for street children in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, since its establishment three years ago.

Finsa M., who runs the shelter, said about 300 street children use the shelter.

"But only about 100 children really live at the house," said Finsa, who is popularly known as Gareng among the children, adding that he and the children independently support themselves.

Finsa said that all of the kids at the shelter go to school.

The kids from the shelter were among many children, not only street kids, who participated in the event, which was organized by the Bangun Mitra Sejati Foundation.

The fair organizer said the program was held in conjunction with the 55th anniversary of the country's declaration of independence, which fell on Aug. 17, along with efforts to promote the convention of the rights of children.

"We want the public to be more aware of the convention which, among other things, guarantees children's right to play," head of the organizing committee Pinkan Utami Wibowo said.

Executive director of the National Commission for Child Protection Arist Merdeka Sirait said the country had failed to protect children's interests.

"It's been 10 years since the government ratified the convention, but no law has been passed for its implementation," Arist told the Post.

Meanwhile, a draft law that will allow the National Commission for Child Protection to take charge of children from parents due to alleged negligence or abuse was completed in February, he said.

Finsa said many children at his shelter left their homes after being mistreated by their parents, including being forced to work at a very young age.

The street children, who looked different in their appearance compared to those at the fair who came from higher economical backgrounds, seemed to be the ones who enjoyed the event the most.

While other kids were accompanied by their parents, the street kids, some shoeless, mingled with their peers and laughed and clapped their hands at every stage performance, which included singing and dancing competitions.

However, when two child singers sang a song with the lyrics Where are you, mother, where are you father. Sisters and brothers now you're out of my sight, it was obvious some of the street kids were holding back tears.

The street children then roamed around the Children's Palace, taking along their guitars, the bongo, and the double bass.

On a competition stand, the children took the stage, which was empty in anticipation of the participants of the program.

They played a supposedly ska song using only minimum instruments. However, their act immediately drew visitors' attention after dozens of their street peers got on the stage and danced joyfully as if they were in a ska musical concert. (jaw)