Monday, 22 August 2011

Social Experience @ Al-Jabar Orphanage, Batam

Research had it that Al- Jabar Orphanage was founded in 1987 with makeshift structures and equipment.   Dwellings and  other support facilities were shabby and dirty.   Roofs, windows and doors were damaged and beyond economical repair.

We could imagine what living conditions were like then when we were led around by the daughter of the founding father on our first visit to the orphanage on Sunday, 7 August 2011.   The founder is 66 years old (born in 1945), and the daughter is the current principal of the schools (primary, secondary and post-secondary).   Her four daughters stay at the orphanage too.
Our rendezvous at MacDonald Restaurant, Harbourfront Centre @ 12.30 pm.   Participants brought in card-boxes, denture model, balloons, and other essentials for planned activities and demonstrations.
Some of the 22 participants and expedition leader, Stanley Y that gathered inside the restaurant.
Participant Christine boarding Asean Raider I at about 2.25 pm (Singapore time).
Ferry approaching Batam Centre Ferry Terminal at about 3.30pm.   It started to drizzle when we reached the island.
My wife, Florence had disembarked.   Yes, I could see Gillian and Jane about to disembark too.
We caught up with each other again outside the custom check-point while Stanley's colleague, Pauline went to claim bulky stuff and luggages from the collection counter.   First surprise of the day:  she had to pay a fee to claim the items !
Batam Centre Ferry Terminal is one of the several ferry terminals on Batam island.   It is the first terminal from the left.   Click here for a clearer view of the island.

We decided to change our itinerary, and check into Vista Hotel instead of proceeding straight to unload our stuff at the orphanage as it was raining rather heavily at one stage of the journey.   The serviced apartments managed by the hotel are in the background.
What a sight to behold !   This is a far cry from the Nagoya Town that I knew when I made my first trip to Batam in 1980s when the island was opening up for Singapore investors and visitors.  The whole island had only 1 set of traffic lights, and it was located in Nagoya !

We were in Nagoya Town Mall to buy more stuff to complement our other stuff brought in from Singapore before going back to the hotel for dinner.   Notice that bubbly little girl in white looking back ?   That was Phoebe with mother Lai Ping.
Wow !    Sophia was all excited about demonstrating balloon sculpting to the children.    Lai Ping's daughter, Phoebe was just as interested in picking up the skill from her.    Sophia's son looked on with amazement.   Sophia was right !   Children are all excited about balloons.
We adjourned to our hotel rooms after dinner.   Room was spacious and comfortable.   We could follow all the Singapore  Media Corps' channels in Batam.   Taxi fares are unreasonably high for one to venture into any other part of Batam.   Other modes of public transport are just as good as non-existent.   I did not see or recognise any public bus passing by during my 3-day stay even though services were said to be available.
No complaint against the spread of breakfast choices.   Chinese porridge, fried noodles, noodle soup, breads and eggs, fried chicken parts, kim-chi soup, tempura, etc.
Day 2, 7 August 2011 at about 9.45 am (Batam Time) saw us approaching the main entrance to Al-Jabar compound.   It was about to rain when the principal led us on an orientation tour of the premises.
The back of the mosque opens onto a vast compound that turns muddy when it rains.    We witnessed some work-in-progress in laying concrete over some stretches of the compound.   It is not likely that the newly-laid concrete surface will last long as it was not reinforced with some form of steel mesh.
Adjoining the mosque was a row of shelters and a kindergarten where we used to dig into our lunch packets over the next 2-day.
Located diagonally across from the back of the mosque was the secondary school.   Above:   the former premises of the secondary school. Contrast this with the new wing below.

The newly-installed wing of the secondary school.   The principal-cum-general office took up the last unit of the row (see below photo).
Principal's office is in the background.
Above:  The Junior College for post-secondary education.   Below:  Work-in-progress.
The post-secondary premises will apparently be better equipped and more comfortable for the students.   But, what a contrast in the room next door ( see below photo ).

We held most of our indoor activities at the relatively less well-furnished section of the junior college building.   The children had a hilarious time going through the science experiments (above) and decorating their own storage boxes ( Top ).
Children were all excited about the fun way of blowing up the balloons using water and bicarbonate of soda that Sophia had brought over from Singapore.
Ha !   How I wished someone else had done it.  The denture model brought along by Shann had made my task a lot easier.   It was part of the hygiene lessons that Stanley had proposed for this trip.   The hand-washing part was led by Lai Ping.
That's the path leading from the junior college to the primary school.   Spot that covered water storage well to the left of the school building ?
That's a close-up of the rain-water storage well ( top and middle photos ), and the cooling tower ( above ) that draws the water from the well.   Notice that canteen in the background ?

That's a close-up view of the canteen.   As it was Ramadan (fasting month for muslims), we didn't have a chance to see the food served or sold to the students.
Above:   That's the front view of the primary school.  It faces the Batam Centre Ferry Terminal in the distance.
Above:   You probably could not see 'Welcome To Batam' in the distance. But, I saw it with my naked eyes.

There was inadequate lighting throughout the whole compound, and we had to conduct our  fun activities in near pitch-darkness as it was raining outside.

Above:   That's a better glimpse of the situation taken with flash-light from another camera by Yong Poh.

Below:  Another shot by Yong Poh on Christine leading the children through some fun activities - ' Where are my shoulders '.

It was less pathetic when the sun was out.   Ventilation was poor as most of the windows were, for some reason, not widely open during lesson.   Schools run half-day sessions only, and there was no apparent outdoor curricular activities after school.

Eileen M and family bought some badminton rackets, shuttle-cocks and balls from the nearby Carrefour Hypermarket on the second day, and the students and some teachers were all excited about the games on the following day ( morning ).

Above:   There was no lighting fixture for the toilets.   It would have been pitch-black without any 'flash' from the camera.
The dormitories were located mid-way between the junior college and primary school.   Above photograph shows the boys' section while the girls stay further down the same row of shelters, separated by the kitchen ( Below photographs ).

Aaron from the 'Muscles' team painting the wall bordering the girls' dormitory.   Notice the new aluminium sheets in the background ?   That was made possible through funds-raising efforts by some participants.   S$1,500 of the total S$3,000 raised went to replacing the roof over the girls' dormitory.

Below:  a glimpse of the girls' dormitory.
Part of the S$3,000 raised by some participants was used to provide several cabinets for the girls' dormitory while the balance was spent on rice cookers, items for the goodie bags, etc (See below photo).
Below:   We continued our planned activities into the third day of our stay, 8 August 2011 - balloon sculpting, dancing lessons, English lesson and quizzes, card-box decoration, badminton and soccer.

Wow, that's Sophia's son showing the way to observe the rules of professional soccer !   I heard him shouting out, ' Hand ball,   Hand ball ' ; and tried to stop the game while the other children wondered what he was driving at.
We ended our fun activities at about 3.00pm as we had to leave for the hotel to wash up, and head for the ferry terminal at about 4.30pm.

Below:   We did our last minute shopping at Mega Mall before walking over the bridge leading to the terminal.

The shopping mall has a Customer Service counter on level 2 for us to deposit our luggages while we went on with our shopping and dining.
Wall clock showed 1806 hrs ( Singapore time:  1906 hrs ) as we entered the waiting lounge of the terminal.
Walking towards our ferry, Ocean Flyte.

We took the upper deck for a better view of the water, and to escape from the diesel smell that pervaded the lower deck on our way to Batam.   Disembarked at Harbourfront Centre at about 9.05 pm.

Despite the occasional discomforts and inconveniences, we did enjoy the great companionship among participants, trip leaders Stanley and Pauline notwithstanding, and the warmth of the orphanage's principal, teachers (some), helpers, children, and others that we did not manage to engage more closely during this trip.

Al-Jabar orphanage is definitely in need of more funding and help in non-monetary terms.   Based on feedback and our own assessment, the following items are worthy of consideration should you decide to help them:

  • Desktop and laptop computers, about S$600 for a brand new set of desktop computer.   It would be better to purchase them in Batam for software and other compatibility specifications.   They are readily available in the shopping centre;
  • Wardrobe and hangers for the girls' and boys' dormitories;
  • Tables and chairs;
  • White-boards and flip-charts;
  • Fans;
  • Lighting.  Need to check on power availability and cost of utilities;
  • Stationery;
  • School uniforms and other attires.   Shann, Cassandra & Martin, Meixi and Ei-Leen had gone out to some street store to buy some uniforms for the children, but wear-and-tear will render this a perennial need for regular sponsorship; and
  • Reading materials ?

More photographs could be found on facebook.

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