For young people, looking for employment in today’s world can be a trialling experience. This is even truer for those who have not benefited from appropriate preparation for what can be a long journey ahead. Stella’s Child is a foundation here in Bali that is addressing this issue, focusing on equipping underprivileged children with the necessary skills to find good employment and thus break the cycle of poverty in their families. NOW! Bali speaks to Tim Cameron, founder of the program, to find out more.
Timothy Cameron, an American with a long background in education, understands the importance of specific skills that help with people’s employability and work readiness. This was something he felt needed to be shared with disadvantaged members of society, in order to give them access to better opportunities. Having surveyed numerous local foundations, he met with the Widhya Asih Foundation who expressed their need to provide their children with improved English and life skills training. So, in 2013 Tim founded Stella’s Child in order to serve this very need.
The Widhya Asih Foundation focuses on helping Balinese children between the ages of 4 and 18 who come from impoverished backgrounds, are victims of violence and exploitation or come from broken homes. By providing safe places to live, quality health care and access to formal education, Widhya Asih is greatly improving the lives of the children they support. Understandably, the foundation can only support these children up to a certain age, after which it is their hope that with the education Widhya Asih helped to provide, the now young adults are able to find better employment to support themselves and their families.
Whilst schooling provides children with critical basic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic, etc), it doesn’t necessarily equip them for the workplace. Here is where Stella’s Child comes in.
Working closely with one of Widya Asih’s six homes in Bali, Stella’s Child prepares children for the working world through classes, mentoring, workshops and programs. The idea is to improve their employability by teaching soft skills (e.g. communication, leadership, interviews etc) as well as important business knowledge and understanding (e.g. financial literacy, sales and marketing terms, etc).
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the training from Stella’s Child is their 12-month Entrepreneurship Program, whereby the children, with their new knowledge and skills must start a small business from scratch. Their current group of 47 children from Widhya Asih’s Untal Untal Home created their very own retail brand called Love Our Earth Bali, selling beachwear and beach accessories (board shorts, towels, skirts etc). The brand’s philosophy – created by the children – is to advocate environmental sustainability. Every aspect of the business, from design, sales, marketing, finance, operations and so on is run by the children themselves, everyone has their part to play. With limited influence from their mentors, the children are empowered to make decisions…and also make mistakes, which they learn from.
Tim mentions that despite having a very business focus, the benefits for the children extend beyond this: “The training we give to the children can be used in any part of their lives, it isn’t just about owning or operating a business”. he tells NOW! Bali. “Somewhere between junior high school and senior high school, the children lose sight of their dreams. Those who wanted to be teachers settle for much less, thinking they don’t have the means. Throughout our program though, you can see the children’s’ self-confidence grow exponentially as they notice their own capabilities and see their strengths. Slowly, their dreams become attainable again”. By the end of the program, whether looking for a job, returning home to help families or perhaps even starting a business of their own, the children will have skills and knowledge that will last them a lifetime.
The next step for Stella’s Child is their First Employ Program, through which they will help Entrepreneurship Program graduates find internships and jobs. However, in line with their philosophy throughout, the idea is not to provide jobs but enable them to get their own. This reduces any forms of dependency and teaches them to stand on their own feet.
Whilst still a relatively small program for the time-being, working solely with one group of children under Widhya Asih Foundation, Stella’s Child has room to grow. They plan to extend the program to other foundations who need life skills training and are working on building internship and scholarships programs for children too.
With such programs, the occupational playing field in Bali is slowly being leveled. Those who have been unfairly disadvantaged are given the opportunity to grow and prosper like everyone else. If you wish to support, Stella’s Child is always open for both corporate and individual sponsorships or would be delighted to have more volunteers. Also, don’t forget to look into the kids’ brand, Love Our Earth Bali, who you’ll find on their Facebook Page.