Jakarta, Indonesia Part 2: Working with Rumah Belajar Students

At YCAB Foundation, I had the opportunity to work with both the Partnership and Program Development Teams. One project that I was particularly invested in was a partnership program between YCAB and Danone Indonesia. Danone wanted to fund a nutrition-oriented program for YCAB’s beneficiaries, so YCAB was in charge of designing a nutrition intervention and education program based on the needs of its beneficiaries and some criteria provided by the funder.

Several YCAB Partnership Team members

The first task assigned to me was needs assessment. My mentor, who is also the head of the Partnership Team, helped me to think through the logic of developing a program, and one of the first things she encouraged me to do was to figure out the various potential stakeholders of a nutrition-oriented program. I decided that in the case of nutrition intervention, potential stakeholders would include children, teachers, parents, as well as expecting parents. Reaching out to parents and expecting parents can come in the form of training and education, which can be provided through community events or directly given at the homes of YCAB beneficiaries on a weekly basis. Similarly, teachers can also be trained to integrate nutrition education into the curriculum. The stakeholders that I was most interested in, however, were the children themselves. As an intern, I had direct access to the Rumah Belajar (Learning House) students, so I set out to observe the students’ eating habits during snack times and interview them to get a better sense of their daily eating habits in general.

I found that there were many issues involved with the students’ eating habits. First of all, there are two groups of students that attend Rumah Belajar: the morning students that come from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the afternoon students that come from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. After interviewing the morning students, I quickly found that many come to school without having breakfast. At first, I thought that this problem would be less prominent for the afternoon students, but it turns out that the majority of the afternoon students also come to school on an empty stomach. Both morning and afternoon students are given a 30-minute snack time in the middle of their school hours, and based on my observation and conversation with the students and teachers, I found that the students can be grouped into three categories. First, there are students who come to school with pocket money, ranging from Rp. 5,000-10,000 (approximately  50-75 cents). These students end up buying snacks from street vendors, but none of these vendors serve healthy options. Most students rotate between buying cold sugary drinks served in a plastic bag or meatballs that are mostly made of flour. Second, there are students who pack their own lunch, and these packed lunches are very modest, often consisting of rice and egg or rice and a small portion of fried chicken. Lastly, there are also students who neither bring pocket money nor packed lunch, and spend their snack time simply playing or chatting with friends. Other problems that come up frequently during interviews include having less than 3 meals per day and the absence of milk consumption.

Rumah Belajar students during snack time

At the end of my internship, I compiled the results of my observation and interviews, and presented them to my mentors at the Partnership Team. I also provided them with suggestions for program components and different types of interventions that can be considred. For example, I suggested some improvements for the clinic located at Rumah Belajar. I noticed that the clinic operates on a treatment-based approach, but does not emphasize prevention and health promotion. Therefore, I suggested that the clinic can offer workshop days where students are given vitamin deficiency check-ups and nutritional supplements. Working on this nutrition project with YCAB also led me to do more personal research on the relationship between nutrition and educational outcomes. I learned that nutrition and education are very much interconnected. When working to improve education, it is not only important for us to consider the information and skills we teach to students, but also the nutrition we supply so that students can perform optimally. Although I did not stay long enough to be able to fully participate in the long-term project with Danone, I was glad that that I can contribute my knowledge in Public Health to the team, and I am very much looking forward to the implementation of a nutrtion program at YCAB.