Morning mood

Indonesia, November 9, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Julisa Tambunan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Iday, a 37-year-old resident of Jakarta's Penjaringan neighborhood, conducts a financial literacy class as part of Mercy Corps' Western Union-supported Our World, Our Family program. Photo: Julisa Tambunan/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Julisa Tambunan for Mercy Corps  </span>
    The tiny room was full of participants eager to learn from the early-morning financial literacy class conducted by a Mercy Corps-trained local teacher. Photo: Julisa Tambunan for Mercy Corps

I’ve never considered myself a morning person. I keep telling people how my brain works better after the sun goes down but, really, I think my main problem simply lies in the waking-up-early-morning part. For that reason, people who can start a day at the earliest time — feeling energized by the sunshine like they can rule the world when the morning comes — always amaze me.

And so, yesterday I found myself struck in amazement again.

It was Sunday, seven o'clock in the morning in Penjaringan — the largest slum in Jakarta. I have developed a particular attachment to this place over the last two years that I've worked for Mercy Corps, mostly because the community there has always been successful in making me stand in awe. And, as I dragged my half-asleep body up there through the morning mist, I encountered some even more awe-inspiring moments than ever before.

Through Western Union’s Our World, Our Family (OWOF) project, Mercy Corps provides financial literacy education in the form of a cost-free training for the urban poor — specifically migrants — in several areas in Jakarta. The trainers are people who come from these communities and have taken classes from Mercy Corps educators in preparation for this work.

Yesterday morning was the kickoff for this financial literacy training series in one part of Penjaringan — it will be conducted weekly in other selected neighborhoods over the next two months. I came to Penjaringan with Elanvito, the Project Coordinator for OWOF, and a cameraman to document the process as well as interview some of the beneficiaries.

And so came Awestruck Moment No. 1: the trainer, a 37-year-old man named Iday whom I have met few times, greeted me cheerfully as I walked in to the training room. “Good morning, beautiful! Doesn’t the morning look beautiful?” The morning was indeed pretty, the sun shone up so brightly that it burned my sleepy eyes. But it’s his spirit that woke me up.

Iday is one of the few members of his community that is always actively involved in Mercy Corps projects. He volunteered to be one of the trainers for this project because he believed that he should do something for his neighborhood.

“This room is used to park motorcycles in the evening. We repainted it so it could look presentable enough to hold a training. We can’t afford an air conditioning, but there’s a fan and we could open the door like this. I am so excited!” he exclaimed.

That was Awestruck Moment No. 2.

So first, the participants were divided into two classes: the Sunday morning batch and a Sunday afternoon batch. (There will also be Saturday afternoon batch starting next week.) We waited a little longer until all the participants arrived. There were so many people coming, on that very early Sunday morning, that the crowd exceeded the capacity of the room. Soon it became very hot inside, but people just didn’t feel it.

When Iday asked some of the participants to come in the afternoon instead —because almost half of them had not been registered yet — they protested: “We want the morning session because it’s the time when we are still fresh and can think clearly.”

I had my Awestruck Moment No. 3.

So the training began, with about 30 people crammed inside that tiny room, when there were supposed to be only 15 people attending. The training was so lively. Everyone was very enthusiastic and energetic.

It was also so funny, because I was there until the afternoon when the second class took place and, in contrast, there were only five people attending that class! I asked one of them why they chose the afternoon class, and they answered, “The morning class were already full.” Wow.

And Iday was something else. He delivered the training in a remarkable way, especially considering that he'd never facilitated such a class in his life, besides participating in the five-day Mercy Corps workshop that prepared him for this work. When I asked what made him seemingly unstoppable today — especially in the morning class — he softly answered, “Mornings make me feel brand new. I feel like I can conquer the world, and not when the world is sleeping, but when the world is waking up.”

His philosophy — and all those awestruck moments — made me seriously think about changing my sleep pattern.