Published on Saturday, 15 January 2011 13:22
Written by Bruce Gale
There was no band practice scheduled, but as I walked towards BBJ's rehearsal room I noticed that it was full. Dispensing with the chairs, BBJ members lounged on the risers as one of their number sat on the floor counting money scattered on the floor. It mostly consisted of dirty crumpled notes in small denominations - the sort of thing regularly exchanged in the poorer back streets of Indonesia's cities.
In recent years, as increasing numbers of band members have left the Boys Home and taken jobs in Medan, I have grown used to seeing these young men take the initiative regarding band matters. Older members have also been increasingly active in helping each other find accommodation and jobs - something I hardly expected when I first formed the band back in 1987.
But collecting money was something new. "It is for Nias," bandmaster Danias Karosekali told me.
BBJ members had heard that former BBJ trombone player Yudhykana Laia (Yudhy) wanted to organise a party for the children who attended Sunday school at a remote village in southern Nias where he lived with his relatives. Lying 125km off the west coast of Sumatra, Nias is a rugged island about the size of Bali. Known for its poverty, and largely ignored by the rest of the world - including policymakers in Jakarta - it suffered a devastating earthquake in March 2005. The money was to go to Lawa-Lawa Luo village, about 65km south of Gunungsitoli, the administrative capital.
What I didn't expect was that Danias would double that.
"Whatever the amount is, I will double it," I told band members. And so I did. But what I didn't expect was that Danias would double that. Danias, who recently obtained a degree in accounting from a local university after years of part-time study, has always been especially generous in helping less fortunate band members. So, all in all, the children at Lawa-Lawa village received Rp one million (US$110) from BBJ.
The report BBJ members later received from Yudhykana revealed that the children ate Christmas cake for the first time ever! About 100 children were expected, but more came with their parents without invitation, thus putting a strain on available resources. "But we had to welcome them," Yudhy said. The children were given four kinds of snacks, as well as books and pencils (needed for school). There were also special prizes for those who could answer a simple Bible question. And special gifts for regular attendance at Sunday School.
"I tried to give everyone a present, but there was not enough," he said. "I promised to give them a present when we start Sunday School next week.". No prizes for figuring out where the money for that came from. Yudhy has a generous heart too.