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God Bless the Child

Brave Efforts of a Balinese Woman Trying to Break the Cycle of Poverty by Educating Baliís Street Children

(6/3/2012) Tourist, intent on having a good time during their Bali holiday, will often do their best to avert there eyes from the leagues of street urchins, begging for money on road sides and busy intersections.

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Many of these children scrounding for money on the streets of South Bali come from the community of Munti Gunung, in the Karangasem regency where poverty and the familiarity of practice has produced a multi-generational beggar class.

Intent that begging should not become a profession for any Bali child, a dedicated Balinese woman, Ni Pande Putu Etiarti, is pioneering a movement to break this cycle of poverty by providing educational opportunities to the island’s street beggars.

Putu Etiarti has slowly and patiently gathered the street children, bringing them to a corner of Bali’s Kuta beach where she teaches reading, writing and arithmetic. Employing patience and persistence to persuade children and their parents of the need to obtain an education, Putu's original class of 7 children has now grown to more than 30 pupils.

Describing her crusade Putu Etiartini said: “It needs a lot of time to gather the children and invite them to study together. For them time is for seeking money, not for studying.”

Working through a local foundation – the Foundation for Love and Care of Children (Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak – YKPA) – a simple school building on the beach has been operating for the past five years. Student, who have acquired a basic education from the school, are place at schools in Denpasar to obtain continuing education.

When the children come to Putu Etiartini’s school they are literally in tatters lacking even the most basis educational skills. Joined by a friend, Putu uses the meager funds neded to teach reading and writing skills, seen by YKPA as the first critical step in changing the fate of the children and their families.

The path to obtaining an education is seldom smooth. “For months I befriend the children, exchanging stories and just talking with them, offering chocolate and drinks. Once a relationship is established, I invite them to join the study group,” explained Putu.

The difficulties do not end there. Sometimes the children's “bosses” or parents don’t agree with efforts to educate the children, complaining that their income declines if the children are in school. “Their 'bosses' come and complain angrily to the foundation. They want to bring the children back to work on the streets,” she says.

Nonetheless, Putu Etiartini remains steadfast in her commitment to educate Bali’s street children, pointing to the progress made in sharing knowledge with her young charges and their newly awakened hunger for learning.

In the words of one of the children, Riski: “I like it here. I can study many things with many friends. Now I can speak English, do Yoga, dance Balinese dances and even surf.” Riski, who once sold bracelets on Kuta Beach, has today become a dedicated 15-year-old student.

Monitoring the progress of former student transferred to junior and high schools in Denpasar, Putu Etiartini reports that many of her former students are distinguishing themselves academically and achieving high attendance rates.

Putu credits her father for providing her the inspiration to try to make a change in the community. Hailing from a simple family, her Father always prioritized helping others. “Eventually, I learned that by helping others we can obtain great personal happiness,” said Putu.

In operating the Foundation, Putu Etiartini is assisted by nine staff members. To continue her education efforts funds are always needed to meet operational requirements and pay the school fees of her student continuing their education in Denpasar junior and high schools.

The foundation recently acquired its simple school building and is seeking funds to expand that facility. When donations are insufficient to pay overhead costs, the children pitch in making and selling handicrafts to keep their school operating.

[Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak Website]