This article is originally published in The Jakarta Post on November 8, 2015. The original article can be found at the Post’s e-paper edition at this link.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these children and teenagers are members of the Hidung Merah Foundation. They have worked hard for months to perform in front of you. So, let’s pay for their hard work with our smiles, laughs and applause,” master of ceremonies and Hidung Merah founder Dan Roberts, 31, said in Indonesian, followed by loud applause from the audience.
Soon after, April and other performers immediately stole the crowd’s attention with their ability to juggle balls, juggle rings and stilt-walk, as well as their dancing and comedy acts, during the foundation’s annual event. Similar events will also be held on Sunday in Cilincing, North Jakarta at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
According to Roberts, the teenagers and children learned the skills from mentors in Hidung Merah, which is also known as the Red Nose Foundation. Established in 2008, Hidung Merah is a foundation focusing on protection and advocating education for children in poor areas in Bintaro, South Tangerang, and Cilincing, North Jakarta. Roberts explained that the Hidung Merah members usually spent an hour and a half every day — before or after school — to practicing circus skills with the mentors, who were also willing to teach them many other subjects, such as science, math and English.
“We chose to stick around Cilincing because we felt that the Cilincing kids need our help more than anybody we met in other places,” Roberts said. “Their neighborhood is very dangerous. Many children do not go to school and are required to work. Some girls are forced to be prostitutes.”
Roberts said that the Hidung Merah team members therefore chose to dedicate themselves to working with children in the area. The foundation had also been building good relationships with the parents, who initially disagreed with their children’s involvement. Roberts explained that his foundation “worked quietly and calmly with the parents” by telling them that education was the children’s right. It also gave their children scholarships so that they would not have any excuse not to put their children through school.
Roberts claimed that as a result, now 99 percent of children in Cilincing went to school, whereas in 2008, 70 percent of Cilincing children did not have any formal education. Roberts pointed out that one of the children was April, who now works as a circus coach in the Hidung Merah foundation.
April said she joined Hidung Merah eight years ago after she saw Roberts beautifully juggling balls. Since then, she found that the circus and the foundation had a part in improving her life.