For my Project Week, my group decided to go to Jakarta under Jakarta Street Kids (JSK). Our trip covered two CAS aspects: creativity and service, but mainly service. To say it impacted us is an understatement, because of the different events we’d witnessed during our stay in Jakarta.
Our time with XSProject was undeniably eye-opening to the entire group. XSProject is a “non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of poor families living in Jakarta’s trash picker communities.” Through the process of upcycling and donations, XSProject aims to raise global awareness of the effects of trash on the environment and society, advocate consumer recycling and to break the generational cycle of trash picking in families of poverty.
Upcycling is the process of creating an object that can be used from plastic and trash. Waste such as billboards, flags, banners and most importantly, plastic can be turned into a quirky bag, pencil case, laundry basket, laptop pouch, etc.
Before we got into the office where XSProject designs and produces their products, we managed to spend some time with the children of the trash picker families. There was a slight language barrier between us and the children, as they did not know English. I can only speak very basic Bahasa Melayu (which is slightly different from Bahasa Indonesia) but I did try my best to communicate with the children. But that didn’t matter so much, most importantly though, we managed to spend time with them and watch how they go about their day in school and at home.
We managed to form a sort of bond with them, and through that, I could see how bright and happy they were, despite living in such rural conditions. It didn’t matter to them that they lived in such a hazardous environment, they had a roof over their head, and they were already happy enough with that. With that in mind, it really put things into perspective for me. Sometimes I complain about how my bed is too stiff, but I forget that some people don’t even have beds to sleep on. Just spending time with the children was already enough to make me contemplate and reflect, but the real part of service came when Ibu Retno arrived at the trash picker community area.
She was very thorough when explaining to us the situation of the trashpicker community, and how they make less than US$4 a day, and how the trash they live right next to is a toxic waste dump. She also explained how this isn’t a recent occurrence, but there are generations of trash pickers living here. And that’s why it’s XSProject’s job to cut this generational cycle of the community and to restore dignity and health into them.
A learning outcome of this experience is LO 6: Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance. Through working with XSProject, I was able to open my eyes to the trash picking community in Jakarta, a community I wasn’t aware of before Project Week. Many people are aware that plastic does not biodegrade and goes into the ocean, killing off marine life. However, it does much more damage to life beyond the ocean, and this is the side of society nobody wants to see. In response to this, I have personally reduced my use of plastic by bringing a tote bag around, and telling more of my peers about XSProject. UWCSEA had also purchased 400+/- iPad sleeves for the middle schoolers for their iPads.
While visiting the XSProject office, I also managed to purchase a wallet that they had yet to release. It was still under approval for release, but Ibu Retno was nice enough to sell it to me first. The wallet was made out of faux leather, billboard paper (as lining) and leftover fabric from a textile shop that was going to throw the fabric away. Absolutely no waste, all reused material.
Working with XSProject was a great opportunity for me to see the consequences of our actions, straight into my face. It also helped me to reflect on myself more and be more grateful for what I have. I believe LO7: Recognise and consider the ethics of choices and actions was fulfilled as well. When I returned to Singapore, I found myself a lot more plastic/trash conscious and I realised how much unnecessary plastic a country like Singapore used (takeways with a plastic bag for a plastic container, with a plastic fork and spoon was something I saw way too much.) Singapore is a country of convenience and efficiency after all, but I would like to believe that one day we’d wake up and realise the impact it has not just on marine life, the environment, but humans as well.