• Stephanie Vonwiller

How important are non-governmental aid organizations?

Since I was a member of an organization in Indonesia/Jakarta myself, I am reporting about it to show, how important such kind of organizations are – even if they are small and not famous like the big ones.

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Past and present

Yayasan Jembatan - "Die Brücke" (The Bridge) was founded in 1979 as a non-profit association of German-speaking women and registered as Yayasan. From 2004 I was responsible for the finances of the association. I was also responsible for the member database. We had about 156 members. Furthermore, I was also present and helped at events. At that time, it was a group of German-speaking women. Always, "Die Brücke" supported needy Indonesians, but especially children and women. With financial contributions from sponsors, membership fees, working groups, events, and a lot of personal commitment, the local population has always been supported. The association also provides support for the education, disabilities, and illnesses of children. This relieves the family, especially the women.

Several Projects in and around Jakarta are currently being implemented in cooperation with Indonesian NGOs and foundations. They focus today also mainly on education, children with disabilities, and children suffering from diseases ("Yayasan Lentara Anak Pelangi" and "Rumah Kita"). The projects are visited regularly to monitor the use of donations.

In addition to the weekly garage sale (second hand), a creative group meets regularly and produces various articles that are sold at events.

Meanwhile, the group is open to everyone. Anyone can become a member. This has been the case since 2010, because new laws in Indonesia, the former status (permission) had to be renewed. But the requirements were extremely high and almost impossible to cope with. One of them was the requirement that all responsible persons should have a work permit. But since usually the German women who did not work full-time in Indonesia belonged to this group, other regulations had to be found. In this case, local women could be found who were willing to commit themselves to the group and its goals. I have still contact today to some members.

What did I take away from this task?

The time in Indonesia was very formative for me. Despite my stay in China for several years, Indonesia was an almost unbearable disaster. Poverty and misery were omnipresent. The women and children suffered the most. I gave what I could, and yet it was only a drop in the ocean. The government, however, did nothing; and still does nothing today.

Still, it was also a time that I remember fondly. The women in the group had a strong sense of solidarity, and we always sought proximity to the local women to learn from their culture.

Sometimes we, unfortunately, had to realize that we were alone with our western thinking and could not do anything. I remember a situation of abuse of a wife - which happens very often there. However, none of the locals saw it as a crime. On the contrary, the general opinion was that the woman had acted wrongly and deserved punishment. And this was not only the opinion of the men!

From then on, I had learned that it is not possible to change structures only through laws. The rethinking of cultural conditions can only be changed by setting an example of different behavior, education, and enlightenment - in other words, by a lot of patience and discussion. This requires people who can sow today and who will probably not live to see the harvest.

I really hope that I helped a little with the sowing.

On my backup drive, I found the data from the past, including one of the Mother's Day events. Here we received donations from companies like BMW and Merck, which also shows how important it is that foreign companies are active in countries like Indonesia. They not only "rake in" money, but they also give, although not everything is made public.

So, if you ask me if it is important, I will shout out loud, "Of course it is! For both sides." Wherever you come from and wherever you live right now, there is everywhere in the world an organization who needs your help. Maybe you can go and help and maybe you give a little money every month – both is perfect and will help the poor and needed people.