The Tsunami left a large number of orphans and the chaos and confusion that followed provided a ripe climate for child trafficking and an increase in the number of children that would be forced into the streets. Friends-International conducted a preliminary assessment of the situation and started operations to reduce the number of street children in Aceh in 2007. The program launched with funds provided by Give2Asia. Donors to the program included Happy Hearts Fund, Asian Chefs Association, AIG Disaster Relief Fund, and the Give2Asia Tsunami Recovery Fund (supported by many generous donors).
To effectively communicate with the children, the Friends-International program in Banda Aceh was given the name of Teman Baik(“good friend” in Bahasa, the local language).
Teman Baik has a team of 12 Acehnese social workers, teachers and medical assistants working with 500 vulnerable children and youth. The program provides basic services, emergency support, social reintegration, and a higher awareness of the risks of child trafficking, the sex industry, and drug abuse.
Teman Baik has a mobile van that is used as a mobile school to support and maintain children from poor communities in school and as a mobile youth center to provide activities to youth. When we arrived that day, the mobile van was heading towards a bus transit parking lot. We followed shortly afterwards. The children were already waiting when the van arrived. From the van, the children had full access to books, games, toys, musical instruments and other materials. In addition to serving as counselors and reaching out to children and youth on the streets, the team also provides basic services, including first aid. We saw a medical assistant cleaning the wound of a teenage boy that had injured himself earlier that morning.
The Teman Baik team took us to a small alleyway where several young drug-users were living. We saw a Teman Baik counselor speaking to three girls around the age of 15. A boy around 10 was sleeping on the mattress. We spent some time with them. They were surprised that we cared to visit. I was surprised that they welcomed us.
I like the Friends-International projects because they go to where the children are and gain their trust. In addition, their projects are designed to empower the children and youth, helping them take control over their own development and training in life and job skills.
After our visit, Give2Asa provided a grant to support the continuing operations of the program and to develop a pilot vocational training business (a coffee shop) to offer entry-level skills development in hospitality so that the youth will have marketable skills. In addition, the social business will help Teman Baik towards financial sustainability.
Teman Baik also manages a ChidSafe Network. The goal of the Network is to develop an extensive child protection network encouraging the local community to take responsibility to defend child rights and protect children from all forms of abuse. Becak drivers (three-wheeled motor-taxis) are trained and certified to recognize and respond to children in dangerous situations and abuses. Becak drivers meet regularly to discuss how to respond if members witness child sexual abuse, physical abuse, unsafe migration, health problems and accidents. Becak drivers that participate in the program wear a signature blue jacket. The ChildSafe Network also encourages travelers to patron becak drivers who are in the Network.
Friends-International also has a ChildSafe Network program in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia and Vientiane, Laos.