AUGUST 5TH, 2017 
The Saturday heat blanketed the city as we drove through town to get to the Bethel Christian Elementary School. By midday, we had found our way into the alley where this school was located, and stepped into a hall of loud, excited children.

The month before, I'd reached out to the Generasi Peduli Foundation (translated to "A Caring Generation"), a nonprofit organization based in my city of Surabaya, that works on social movements to improve education, and strengthen rural communities. I e-mailed them to see if there was any way I could get involved in any of their programs or activities; a way I can fill my months-long, pre-uni hiatus by giving back and doing more for others. Long story short, I was assigned as the voluntary photographer in their most recent visit to this school.

Out of the many visits and events they'd organized, it was rare for them to pay a visit to a Christian school. Most are usually a lot more established and refined. But unlike the many expensive, Christian, prep schools you can find in the big cities of Java, Bethel was modest, and it ran for a different demographic. This includes orphans, or kids coming from low-income families, such as children of taxi drivers, parking staff, laborers, and more.

Walking in, we were greeted by a handful of teachers, well-aged and properly dressed in batik uniforms. Inside the little hall was this large mass of children, all ready in their best school attire, already eagerly waiting for our arrival. After a few words of greetings, they responded in the most excited, cheerful way possible. They sang songs in loud and perfect unison, they raised their hands in the speed of lightning when it was called for, and in short; I'd never seen a more enthusiastic crowd of children.

Pictured above is Gloria. She is in 4th grade. An all-smiles, sociable young girl who dreams of becoming a singer. I asked her if she sang, she said yes, but never in front of a crowd. She plays basketball, and went home with a light blue polka-dot jacket wrapped around her. The principal further explained to me that she was one of the orphanage kids.

After singing some songs together, the event proceeded with a small talk about "reaching your dreams", and finally lunch time. I'd noticed that Gloria wouldn't even touch her food. I told her she could eat, but she repeatedly refused. At the end, I saw her leaving with the lunch box in her hands, walking away by foot. In the car, my colleagues told me that some of the kids chose not to eat the food, but rather bring it home to share with their siblings or relatives.

Photographing social events had always been fun for me, but photographing these kids (and seeing how they'd smile ever so nicely once they saw the camera) gave a different kind of joy.

That afternoon, my day went on, and my mind couldn't rest. Living life as a privileged person, your world becomes a bubble, and you forget that there are other groups of people with struggles you wouldn't even ever have to think of. Getting to know the school and seeing these kids had inspired me in many ways; through their perseverance, spirit, and the strong faith they have in each other and themselves.

If you wish to pay a visit yourself, or find/contact them, 
Bethel elementary school is #188 on this list
There is also additional information you can find here.

Thanks for reading.

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