Sutami rushes into the alley, hoping to still make it in time to reach the church for a meeting.
As she passes by the residential areas, she is greeted by parents along the way. It seems everyone knows her and gives her their respect.
People from all over of Java and from all religions live in Solo, and you will see mosques and churches along the way. It is quite an adventure to pass through the narrow alleys, as newcomers will almost certainly lose their sense of direction! But not Sutami.
Sutami, age 53, is one of the mentors at the Anugerah Student Center. She has dedicated her life as a mentor since this child development center opened in 1995. Her passion to minister to children keeps her returning to the center.
Not everyone is qualified as a mentor. People who want to be a mentor are screened by a church committee and the student center’s coordinator/director.
Mentors must be committed Christians, committed to the local church, have a passion to minister to children, have basic teaching skills, and have good relational skills. This is especially needed when mentors deal with parents.
When Compassion establishes a partnership with the local church, the child development center (CDC) is formed as a formal body under the church, which delivers programs to the children registered at that CDC. This partnership gives the church the ability to reach out to the community, especially the poor.
A CDC consists of three major positions of responsibility: a coordinator, a secretary and a treasurer. These roles are the only full-time staff at the center. These three functions are the motors of the development center, and our country staff communicate regularly with the CDC staff.
Compassion assigns a partnership facilitator to oversee around 12 churches in the nearby area. The facilitator has the responsibility to work with each church regularly. The facilitator’s main job is to sustain partnerships through regular communication with the pastor or other decision makers in the church. This helps the child development center staff deliver the programs effectively.
All center staff are selected by the church, but our country office helps in the recruiting process by setting the requirements for these roles.
- Who are the merchants of morality that commit their lives to fight the poverty of society and try their best to break the poverty cycles?
- Who are the men and women who peer into the slums and stinky alleys for the sake of visiting children who are not even their own?
The qualifications for coordinator, secretary and treasurer are mostly set by the church. Professional skills are required for these jobs.
The coordinator should have leadership skills to oversee all of the CDC staff, the secretary should have the basic skill of a book keeper and other secretarial-related skills, and a treasurer should have basic accounting knowledge and needs to be trusted to handle the support money.
The church chooses the staff, and the partnership facilitator helps the church to ensure those applying for these roles meet the professional standards.
Each year the child development center makes an annual plan. These annual plans reflect the specific needs of local children. Last year’s performance is often used as an evaluation tool to determine needs for the following year.
The annual plan will be compiled with a budget. The partnership facilitator brings the annual plan to the Compassion office to review it before giving final approval. In the plan, the church’s pastor testifies about the collaboration and professionalism of the ministry.
Assisting the center staff are a group of volunteer mentors. These mentors are responsible for specific age groups. Mentors are the ones who act as teacher, coach or social worker for the children in their age group. They relate with the children and their parents. They know each child personally.
“To know each child personally can be a challenge. A deep trust often emerges when you allow some time and listen to their struggles,” says Sutami.
The commitment of these mentors as church volunteers and as the frontline in gaining the trust of the children and their parents benefits the church. More and more people draw closer to church, which provides an opportunity for the church to minister the childrens’ families while the CDC focuses on the development of their children.
“So, a lot of my work is changing people’s mind,” says Sri, another mentor. Sri knows she needs to be equipped with various skills related with social work, communication and teaching.
A partnership facilitator once said that mentors are the soul of our ministry, walking alongside the children while the children walk in the wilderness, teaching character and life skills to the children so the children might survive and gain a better their life.
Without the mentors at the child development centers, our ministry to the poor is just a concept.