by: Renny Antoni Roberts
As Red Nose Foundation’s Managing Director, Renny works closely with Executive Director Dan Roberts to determine the direction and the future of the foundation. Renny holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and Public Relations and has been involved in social work since the age of 12. She first joined the foundation in August 2009 as a volunteer, documenting the foundation’s various field activities. She has been the foundation’s managing director since May 2011. Here, she reflects her Red Nose experiences over the years and share her dreams for the foundation’s future.
When I first joined Red Nose, I was only a volunteer with a camera. I came every Sunday, watched the circus class, took pictures and played with kids. Occasionally, I would go to Cilincing and help with the English classes. I also joined the team on several Red Nose Relief tours to photograph the shows. In the beginning, the team was small, only Dan and Dedi. Every once in a while volunteers would come around, but the core of Red Nose was those two guys.
What I liked about the circus and English classes they taught in Cilincing was that they made the classes casual and simple but the kids were really learning. Disciplined but fun. I could see the children’s enthusiasm in the circus class as if the class were the only place they could play and have fun.
My first day in Cilincing, I met the all the kids, their families and neighbors. Cilincing is a big community in a very poor slum area. I helped Dedi with English class that day and also tried to get to know the kids. While chatting with one of the girls, she opened up to me about her story. Because her parents couldn’t afford to pay for her school tuition, her parents wanted to send her back to their village (a girl only 13 years old) and for her to marry an older man that she’d never even met. Her parents thought that if they married her daughter (even at a young age) it meant they would not have to be responsible to feed her or provide anything. In fact, the daughter could help her parents to improve their financial problems. This was a heartbreaking moment for me as a woman, who was fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to choose my own future.
I am not a teacher or an educator, not a circus performer or musician, but at that time I knew I wanted to be involved with Red Nose to help these kids, especially the young girls. I wanted to give them the same opportunities I had, to get quality education and to reach their dreams.
When Dan and Dedi ask me to join Red Nose full time, I was excited and nervous. It would be a challenge for me to help the children, as I didn’t have a background or any experience working with kids. I started by taking over the English classes to help children of their students. I would spend hours researching teaching techniques that would be simple and easy for the kids to understand.
Soon I began taking over the majority of the administrative and logistic responsibilities, as well as teaching a few days a week. In late 2009, the three of us began to form an organization. Dedi and Dan focused more on running the programs in the field, and I was responsible to create reports, letters, bookkeeping, and all office duties. I spent most of my time helping build the foundation that could support the field programs.
As time passed, we decided to develop the organization, so that we could help even more children. The first time we began recruiting employees, we were very focused on finding people with the same vision as us that would able to assist us in running the programs. I’m proud to say that we’ve grown from three to 15 full time employees.
Sometimes it’s been difficult for me in the office, and I’ve even been exhausted and wanted to give up. But, I never did, because I always remember the children that we are helping, the young girls that we’re giving the hope of a bright future, and that makes all the difficulties of running a small NGO fade away. The most important thing is to help the kids! I am proud to be part of this organization and I strongly believe in the long term positive changes that we’re making.
The young girl that shared her terrifying story with me so many years ago never did get sent to the village to be married. She got the opportunity to go to school, to educate herself and she has a bright future now! My hope is that the children who grow up with us will be an inspiration for their peers, help build Red Nose, and become positive contributors to their own communities and beyond!