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Up Close And Personal With Ananda.

Rusunawa Jatinegara Barat

Like most other students, for the past two years, Ananda has been stuck joining classes online. As an 18-year-old, she currently lives with her mother and sister at one of the many rusunawas. The term rusunawa is the abbreviated form of "rumah susun sederhana sewa" or flats that are easy to rent, they're government-built and the rent is cheap. "At my first place, because of the pandemic we had a bad economic [situation], so I didn't have much money to spend to pay my bills for the house. [And] because this rusunawa is more cheaper than that house, so we moved here," she explains

 The entrance to the rusunawa, equipped with washing stations and hand sanitizer.

Katie Sondakh The entrance to the rusunawa, equipped with washing stations and hand sanitizer. | Jakarta, Indonesia, 2021

Her mother worked selling herbal medicine, earning about rp50,000 a day (just about a tall Starbucks drink) , barely enough to pay the rent of their old home and Ananda’s education. With the separation of her father and mother and her extended family far away, financial aid was difficult to come by. At one point, Ananda's mother had no option but to put Ananda and her sister in an orphanage temporarily to ensure their well-being while she continued to work, this resulted in her being made fun of by her classmates. “sometimes, you know, as a high school student, people judge you because of your background, and sometimes I just feel ashamed because like my friends said things like “you don’t have a father”,” she said as she began to tear up.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Ananda and her family were still able to live together but another problem arose. To go to school during the pandemic, Ananda had to pay for both tuition and mobile service to connect to the online classes, putting more burden on herself and her family. There were days where they wouldn't be able to eat. 

 the learning center with other children living at the rusunawa

Katie Sondakh Ananda (in red) working on school work at the learning center with other children living at the rusunawa.   | Jakarta, Indonesia, 2021

Ananda also shared about how she dreams of becoming a member of the United Nations staff, wanting to represent Indonesia and tell the rest of the world about her country. “I think I have a big dream like I said to you before. I want to go to other countries, maybe meet with foreign people. I really want to achieve my dream, but like my family can’t handle that”

Ananda's notes

Katie Sondakh Photograph of Ananda's notes.   | Jakarta, Indonesia, 2021

With the financial situation, they were in, moving to the rusunawa lifted a lot of weight off Ananda and her family. This was a similar case for most lower-income families, as the rent was cheaper, and they were usually located in cities. While she stayed at the rusunawa, Gekko Indonesia was working to raise money to set up learning centers in rural parts of Jakarta. These learning centers consisted of books, folding tables, a tv, and internet the students get to use.

This meant that Ananda could still attend classes without having to buy mobile service and had a temporary classroom to work in until schools could open again – this is the same for many other students living in the rusunawa. She shared how she regularly partakes in public speaking and storytelling competitions and enjoys reading books in both English and Indonesian.

Some of the students leaving the learning center

Katie Sondakh Some of the students leaving the learning center.   | Jakarta, Indonesia, 2021

Ananda's Interview was the only interview I was able to conduct in English, and I found that I was able to be really comfortable talking to her. Many times during the interview we went off track, talking about Model United Nations and Books we loved to read. She mentioned how she preferred thriller and mystery books over romances, which I somewhat agreed with but I argued that it's harder to find a romance plot that isn't too overused. She's currently an English literature major and I look forward to talking to her again.   

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