Love at first sight of a different kind

A chance meeting, and then another, and they knew they were meant to be awesome together.
Love at first sight of a different kind

"We met at a Starbucks," Georges says. "We happened to be sitting next to each other."

"We then bumped into each other at gym a few days later," Jenny explains.

"It was then that we realised that we lived in the same apartment block!" Georges enthuses.

Destiny? Love at first sight?

Yes. 

But not in the way you are thinking.

This is part of the remarkable story of how Georges Hilaul and Jenny Tjoa, co-founders of Inspiration Factory Foundation, met. 

Both had a passion for fighting poverty. From their chance meeting, the foundation came to life.

Inspiration Factory works in Jakarta slums - educating and empowering the children of the slums for a better tomorrow.

"It all started when I asked a child who lived in this slum what she wanted to be when she was big. Her answer was…" Jenny pauses as she tells the story.

Her answer was: ‘I want to be nothing'.

How can any child grow up with a vision to "be nothing"? 

It was this conversation that catapulted Jenny into action. 

Georges was a professional magician in the Netherlands. In fact, he was a protégé of a world-famous Dutch magician. Then he left it all to move to Jakarta with the sole objective to serve the city's poor. 

If you're going to perform a disappearing act it might as well be on poverty.

It was love at first sight for the children of Jakarta's slums for Georges and Jenny, and they have given up a lot to run the Inspiration Factory fulltime. 

"Why do you do it?" I ask Jenny.

"The need is so great," she says. "Everyone has a gift. We get given gifts to then give them to others."

Jenny's gifts include a degree from an Australian university, a profitable career in food technology in nearby Singapore, and a family background of relative privilege. 

"These are things given to me to enable me to benefit others," she says.

What about the bad days on the job? I was expecting to hear about funding problems and money issues.

"The bad days are when one of the children dies," Jenny's voice bravely quavers. Then she turns our attention back to the foundation's motto and compass.

"Every child deserves a dream," she continues. "Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has greatness in them."

Daring to dream

Inspiration Factory is a foundation that dares. It dares to dream for the forgotten children of the slums. 

If Georges and Jenny dare to dream for the children, perhaps the children will dare to dream for themselves. 

Each week the children's classes include English and basic literacy. They are given a "dream book", in which they articulate their dreams and hopes. Each class gets related back to their dream. 

"How did today's class help you take steps toward your dream?" It's a question they answer every week.

"We took the children to the movies recently," Georges says. "Part of the trip was so that the children could see a world bigger than the four corners of their slum."

A luxury mall – with a modern multiplex cinema - is a short walk from the children's slum.

"Part of the outing was so that they could see what other jobs are out there."

He means jobs other than garbage collectors, road-side knick-knack vendors and sex workers, which is often all that the children are exposed to. 

"Do you know what the highlight of the kiddies' visit to the mall was?" Georges' eyes flashes.

Obviously, it was the movie.

It was the washrooms. We couldn't get them out of there.

The washrooms?

"They had never seen running water before. They kept turning the taps in delight. Water on demand. Fresh water. And toilets. You see there's this thing called a toilet, you could press this button, and the toilet flushes."

"We battled to get them back into the movie," Jenny explains.

And the stories continue to pour out. Stories about how some of the children do not know their own birthdays. 

Some of their parents just didn't care enough to remember that day of days. So Inspiration Factory gives them a birthday. Because someone has to remember and celebrate the day you were born.

The morning after I returned home to Singapore, I got up early, while it was still dark. 

And I sat on my balcony, overlooking the world. And I began to cry. I had to cry. 

At first I cried tears of sadness for little children mired by loveless poverty. Then I began to cry tears of gratitude. Someone was out there - Georges and Jenny - remembering the forgotten, loving the loveless and enriching the poor.

While the world goes to the movies to see super-heroes, other kinds of super-heroes take kids from slums to the movies.  

It was one more reminder that in man's search for greatness, true greatness is hidden in the most daring of all places: where love reaches out to the unloved.


Support the Inspiration Factory Foundation by donating, volunteering or getting your group or company involved.

About The Inspiration Factory

The Inspiration Factory Foundation has reached out to over 950 children that live under the highway in Jakarta. Providing them with education, skills and inspiration, this foundation believes every child deserves to fulfill their dreams.

Contributors

Photographer

Petra Surentu