Theresia Sufa, The Jakarta Post, Bogor, West Java
Seeing many neglected people on the streets of Bogor, West Java, couple Helena Folamauk and Hapoltahan Philipus Sitorus decided to do something to help.
They set up a shelter, where they provide homeless people with care and medical attention, before sending them back to their families.
"We built this shelter in 2003 because our hearts were touched seeing those people sleeping on the streets and eating from the garbage," Helena said.
She said all of the people they helped suffered from some kind of mental disorder, in addition to health problems.
Since its founding, the shelter has given care to 50 people, including 30 who have been returned to their homes, Helena said.
The shelter gives these people food, vitamins and acupuncture treatment, as well as social interaction with other patients and the couple's own family.
They are given a taste of normal, domestic life, Helena said. People in the shelter are given domestic chores like washing dishes, cleaning the shelter and cooking. They all sit down together during mealtime.
The shelter, located in North Bogor district, occupies 450 square meters of land. The common room for the patients can only hold four to five people.
"We wait until some of our patients return home and then we go out to the streets looking for new people," said Helena.
Helena and Sitorus said not all patients were able to return to their homes, even after they had been nursed back to health.
Helena said they once had a patient who they helped return to health, before taking him to his family in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.
"But the family wouldn't accept him. They told us they were afraid he would have a fit again," she said.
The shelter's inhabitants come from a variety of backgrounds, said Helena. They range in age from 14 to 50, some are college educated and others have no formal education at all.
"Reasons for their mental problems also vary, from broken family, drugs, heartbreak," Helena added. "They have lived on the street for five months to three years."
The couple said they often found people who did not even know their names or addresses. They had forgotten who they were.
Helena said that from the beginning, the shelter was established to focus on street people with mental disorders.
The shelter and the couple receive support from the local Pentecostal church as well as other donors.
They don't collect money from patients or their families, except those patients who check themselves into the shelter.
"For vitamins and medication, we spend two million (rupiah) per month," said Helena.
The shelter does not employ an in-house health professional, but they send patients to general practitioners and acupuncturists. For psychological problems, the couple themselves provide counseling.
Word has spread through the community of the work being done at the shelter, and a number of people having trouble with their children have sent them to Helena and Sitorus.
Novian Untung Hariyadi is one such parent. His son, Stenly, often disappeared for long periods of time. Both Novian and his wife were working, and did not have much time to care for Stenly.
"We decided to entrust Stenly to the shelter's care," Novian said.
For such patients, the families are charged a fee. "But the amount is decided by the families. It could be Rp 100,000 (US$11) a month or Rp 500,000."
One of the donors, Willy Darmawan, said he was surprised to find out there was a shelter providing care almost for free. "I'm touched by their endeavor," he said.
Helena acknowledged it was not always easy caring for the patients.
"In the beginning some of these people don't go to the toilet. They just do their business wherever they want to. My husband and I have to clean the mess ourselves," said Helena. "Sometimes I have to bathe them, brush their teeth."
"I love them like they are my own children. My principle is, if you want to help people, do it totally, not half-heartedly."