A Fresh Shot at Life, After Jail
The smell of coffee wafts through the air as Humam serves his first customers of the day. For them, this is just their morning cup of coffee, but for Humam this cup of coffee is a chance for a new beginning.
Humam’s voice is soft but his words are thoughtful. He occasionally giggles as he tells his story and it’s hard to imagine that this 18-year-old has served a two-year jail sentence.
It was in a youth prison in Kutoarajo, Central Java where Humam met Dian Sasmita, who planted the seeds of his fresh start.
Dian started Sahabat Kapas in 2009 to ensure that youth serving jail terms have a safe place to talk and to express their feelings, after realising there were no counselling options available to them.
Having gone through her own share of trouble as a teenager, she understood the circumstances and situations that could lead youths into a life of crime and its resulting consequences.
“Everybody has a bad past. I myself have a bad past. When I was a teenager, I was naughty. But my parents supported me throughout my transition to become a better person,” says Dian.
“Humam and his friends are less fortunate teenagers. They don’t have parental affection. And then, because of the ‘not-so-good’ influence from their environment, they got carried away and did some bad things that ended with a prison sentence.”
The importance of family guidance and acceptance during and after a prison term is a point that Dian emphasises. “For the past five years, we've been focusing on the juveniles that are placed in the prison. And we discovered a fact that 100 percent of them came from a less ideal family life, or have been victims of abuse.”
Many of the youth serve their whole sentence without seeing their parents even once, leading to psychological problems, depression and a fear of what the future would hold for them.
Their struggles continue even after their release. Ex-offenders face discrimination when seeking employment, and a lack of opportunities can drive some to turn back to crime, and back in jail. This situation is made worse when youth are rejected by their families.
Realising that many of the youth are at a loss after their release, Dian started the Gerobak Kopi Onjel (Bahasa Indonesia for “Onjel Coffee Wagon”) programme. Humam and two other youths are their first students.
The first stage of the programme provides juveniles with professional barista training and an internship in a coffee shop. Partnering Sahabat Kapas is Studio Kopi Ndaleme Eyang, which shared their knowledge of everything related to coffee - from how different coffee beans taste, how to brew the perfect cup, to the ins and outs of managing a coffee business.
Humam shares that he first found the coffee very bitter, but as he learnt more his tastes changed. “It is nicer when you drink coffee from the real bean. It is sweet, you don't need sugar.”
After a three-month internship, students move on to the programme’s second stage, where they are provided with a cycle wagon (affectionately referred to as Kayuhan Amal or “Peddling for Charity”) to be used as a mobile coffee shop, allowing them to sell coffee at different events.
Through these new skills, Dian hopes to help ex-offenders become financially independent and able to stand on their own feet, with or without the support of their families.
“The only hope that this programme has, is that these teenagers won't be confused anymore when they are freed, or about what they're going to do when they're out,” she says.
But the impact on Humam’s life goes far beyond financial impact: “I think, the thing that can help me feel confident is the duty that was given to me. It makes me believe in myself more. I have become more motivated in living my life and not making it worse.”