Voluntary act in community often seen as an act “to help those in need” (Janoski et al, 1998: 500). Sharing the same value is important in this kind of act. In Indonesia, this ethic can be found since ancient history and it is called gotong royong. The principle itself aimed for the benefit of all (citizen) and all member of the community support and work together to achieve a common goal (Song, 2008: 106).
The example of community volunteering can be found in a case study of Kali Code housing project. It is located in a riverbank of one of the most important rivers in Yogyakarta, Indonesia – called Code river. The place itself used to be a garbage-dumping area when several families started to squat there. The community formation started in early 1950s, mostly homeless or low-income workers reside and built informal settlement made of plastic sheet and cardboard. The area covers around 3,600 sq. and hosts around 40 families. In 1973, the government announced its plan to remove the squatters in order to clear out the riverbank. But the residents had had a strike of protest and had not wanted to be relocated. Then come along Willi Prasetya – appointed social chief of the area – and Y.B. Mangunwijaya – former catholic priest and architect – to help these people maintain their rights from being evicted. They convinced the government to let the people stay in the area with the exchange of beautification project.
The dwelling development was run by voluntary basis, including the financial and work force aspect. Willi Prasetya and Mangunwijaya raised the fund by inviting two local newspapers to donate to the project. There is no financial support from the government, except for the fact that the land in use is government property, and in the future they could face the risk of being evicted because they do not have the legal land ownership. The work forces being used in the project are mostly from its own citizen with the help of several expert carpenters. Many art students from local university also took part in helping the people paint their homes.
The main leaders of this project, Willi Prasetya and Mangunwijaya, believe that with the development of the dwelling, the residents also need to change their behavior. In the past, people used to throw trash to the river, but if the residents have a sense of belonging and respect to nature, they would not do the same mistake again. They implemented it through education, especially to woman and children. Nowadays, the residents applied strict rules about waste management.
The project became worldly known after being awarded Aga Khan Awards in Architecture in 1992, with the jury specifically citing its human-centered approach. Afterwards, many scholars tried to study its success of marginalized population endowment and its empowerments of the residents. The central government of Indonesia even tried to make it a case study for refugee and disaster housing program as it is perceived as a low cost housing option.
All photos are courtesy to Aga Khan Foundation.
Janoski, Thomas; Musick, March; Wilson, John. 1998. Being Volunteered? The Impact of Social Participation and Pro-Social Attitudes on Volunteering. Sociological Forum, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 495-519
Song, Seung-Won. 2008. Back to Basics in Indonesia? Reassessing the Pancasila and Pancasila State and Society.
Al Radi, Abbad, 1992. Aga Khan Awards Report – Kampong Kali Chode.