Friday, 18 May 2012

Indonesia’s Major Problem And How To Solve It

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. The total population of Indonesia was last reported about 248,2 million in 2012. Based on the statistics, 13.3% of the population living under the national poverty line and around 18.06% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day at 2005 international prices.[1]

 “Poverty means going short materially, socially, and emotionally. It means spending less on food, on heating, and on clothing than someone on an average income. . . .  Above all, poverty takes away the tools to build the blocks for the future – your life ‘chances’. It steals away the opportunity to have a life unmarked by sickness, a decent education, a secure home and a long retirement.”[2]
- Oppenheim and Harker, 1996, pp.4-5

Indonesia is a nation that is trapped in an endless cycle of poverty. There are many causes of poverty in Indonesia, which includes lack of education, overpopulation, corruption and a centralized government. The difficulty that many underprivileged faced is that they lack of education, which has separated them to those who received good quality of jobs. As a result, many underprivileged are content to accept any jobs that they can get, even if the job has no benefit and most are poorly paid. At most time, in desperate needs to earn a living, many turns to drugs and commit crimes such as stealing, robbing and even murder. In particular, women often engaged in prostitution and sex trade.

 My project has three parts. First is to help them move away from all those degrading activities. Second is to provide them with more knowledge on how to do useful things to earn money and finally to create a better home. Nevertheless, my mother who is working in this area has developed a program regarding this event. We have a villa in Puncak, which is located at one of the hills in Java, and since the place is rarely being occupied, she decided to change the villa into a non-profit school where the kids could play while learning. The school offers a distinct program that includes activities such as musical, art, math and different other activities. We encourage people to visit and to share their knowledge and worked together to create a learning environment for the students. The program does not applied solely to children’s; in fact the school also focus to women to be a part of the learning environment. While their husbands are away for work, my mother thought that it would be better for the wives to also contribute to the program and learn more about arts and crafts. The tutors would teach the women to create items from cheap materials such as newspaper, magazines, unusable fabrics, etc. As a result, these materials can produce different kind of selling items such as rugs, small wallet, keychain, and bucket. The idea is that the women can sell something from their own creation and help earn money for their family.

     Keychain                                        Carpets                                           Soap

One of my projects is to enhance the program by adding a new concept to contribute to the aim of the school that is providing knowledge to the underprivileged. For this I found a new technique that I believe could benefit to others. This technique called Makigami, which means roll paper in Japanese, and was invented by Benjamin John Coleman in 2009. Coleman saturates newsprint (newspaper) in a solution and then rolls it to form tapered branches. The rolled branches are then dried on cylindrical molds (like curtain rods, clothes hanger rods and vacuum cleaner tubes) and assembled to form complex branches.  Folded Origami leaves and flowers are then attached onto the branches resulting in a highly durable botanical sculptures made entirely from paper.[3] For my project, instead of using this technique only to design bonsai, it could also be used to create different objects such as jewelry, container, vase, or any kinds of selling items. As I experimented with the materials, I decided to make a bracelet using waving technique. I decided to create jewelry because I think jewelry is strong selling products particularly for women and in addition it would provide a great opportunity for the women to sell the jewelry to earn money.

 I found another inspiring documentary that gives me ideas for further research and experiment:

A toughest place to be a bin man (BBC Television Documentary)
A bin man from London, Wilbur Ramirez, drives a brand new rubbish truck. Part of his route takes him to the homes of wealthy. During the job he found laptops, bicycles, brand new telephones, and even wads of money. For ten days, he went to Jakarta to experience his job there. He worked together with Imam Syaffi who also a bin man in Jakarta. He discovered that Imam’s job is really different than what he does in London. He pushes a decrepit handcart along the streets, barefoot, and scoops up rubbish with a large wooden fork. He is also responsible to keep the open sewers. The cart gets heavier each time he scooped. It is an exhausting physical work and not worth the paid. Imam gets paid really low, not enough to pay a good rent. He lives with his family in a shantytown by the side of the road opposite to a large pile of ill-smelling rubbish. At nights, rats run through the handmade huts. Jakarta promotes itself as an enterprising city and is fast becoming a powerful economy, but it has failed to modernize its most basic of services.[4]

The documentary shows the most well-known and worst occupations for the poor. It is to be a bin man, or in other word rubbish scavenger, which us Indonesian called ‘pemulung’. Each day they comb the waste in their own sites and search for items to recycle or consume. After they finish collecting items, they bring it to their dealer and earn money from the items that they collected. Each material has different values. Plastic is one of the best selling material. It is worth seven thousand Rupiah per Kilograms, that is around 80 cents of Australian Dollar.[5] Their earnings each day are around ten thousand Rupiah to fifty thousand Rupiah, but most of them only earn ten thousand to fifteen thousand. With that amount of money they can only eat once or twice a day and have nothing left. They cannot afford to maintain the minimum living standard, which requires healthy food, decent house, clothes, education, and transportation. Therefor, as I mentioned it before, my project is to educate them on how to earn decent money from experimenting with found objects as items that could sell. Another project that I am approaching in this method is to educate them on how to use these found objects as useful objects. For an example of this project, I will show several objects that could be use as useful objects.

Crates as chair and table:

Glass Bottle as a Vase:

Isang Litrong Liwanag (1 Liter of Light)
According to statistics, three millions households still remain powerless outside Metro Manila and even in the metro area, families still continue to live in darkness. Therefore, My Shelter Foundation created a project that is called Isang Litrong Liwanag to help brighten up millions of underprivileged homes in Philippines. Isang Litrong Liwanag is a sustainable lighting project, which aims to bring the eco-friendly Solar Bottle Light. It is designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Solar Bottle Light is made out of one liter of soda plastic bottle consist of mineral water and a little amount of bleach. They cut a 9x10 inch of metal roof sheet then cut a circle slightly two millimeters smaller than the circumference of the bottle container then attached the bottle with a rubber sealant. They protect the bottle cap from cracking by sun with a protective plastic tube then attached it on the roof. It creates a beautiful solar bottle light bulb. [6]


These inspiring individuals discussed above, Wilbur Ramirez, Imam Syaffi and My Shelter Foundation, have motivated me to create and implement their ideas for underprivileged families in Indonesia. I experimented with different found objects that can be found in places in Indonesia. Specifically, I have experiment with re-used crates, glass bottles, and plastic bottles and discover ways that can benefit underprivileged families for better living conditions. These objects could be easily found in a piling up garbage in Indonesia. Rather than just throwing it away, they could use it for much better tools such as interior furniture. With this project, they would not have to spend more money to be able to decorate their house into a better place. The great things about this project is that it is free, mostly recyclable, and to increase creative minds for living. In regards to crates in particular, often crates can be found in restaurant, supermarket, factories, and these crates are often thrown away after used. However, many garbage scavengers collect this item and usually sold to the plastic dealers in exchange for little money. Instead, these crates can be use for families at their homes. For example, crates collected can be cast into tables and chairs. As for glass bottles that are found in streets lakes, sewers and gutters can be use for home decorations such as a vase or even to store water. Finally the plastic bottle can benefit many families in their homes as a source of light. Inspired by Isang Litrong Liwanag, I could not help myself to experiment with the plastic bottles it selves. I tried to use smaller bottles and tried to mix some watercolor into the solution, but it failed because of the strong effect from bleach. So I used one Liter of bottle instead and put it in a huge cardboard box to see if it works and it did. It is a really beautiful source of light yet it does not cost the light. For future experiment, I will use different colors of bottles to create different colors of light to give a fun interior light experience.

The documentary that inspired me was “A toughest place to be a bin man”. This documentary had given me an idea to design a shelter especially for the underprivileged. For further research of this project, I found another inspiration by an American architect, Michael Reynold, who is also known as a “Garbage Warrior” builds houses structures from the garbage. For thirty years he is based in New Mexico to advancing the art of “Earthship Biotecture” by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. He uses cans, car tires, and glass bottle as a structure of houses that produce thermal mass and energy-independent.

How it is Earthship? First, it is a passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials; Second, thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization; Third, renewable energy and integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

How it is Biotecture? It is the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability and it is a combination of biology and architecture. [7]

Another architect that inspired me was Shigeru Ban. He is from Japan and he does a brilliant and eco-friendly design of buildings or house structures. One of his designs that are called “Paper Emergency Shelters” is built with a structure out of a low-cost paper tubes. He started this temporary shelter in Rwanda when two million people became homeless when civil war broke out. This shelter does not cost as much, since paper tubes can be manufactures in low cost and by small and simple machinery.[8] Indonesia is accompanied by humid and rainy seasons. Thus it is important the selected materials must be design according to this. Shigeru Ban had design his house structures made of paper. According to Conroy, 1987 factor such as climate should be taken into consideration when designing a shelter. Hence, with Indonesia majority of rainy weather using paper as the found object is not the best idea. As the water can damages the foundation of the shelter. Hence, I felt that PVC pipes would be best-suited materials for the shelter. Not only PVC is easily found and it is also eco friendly since it can be recycled. According to UNCHS (1985 as cited in Conroy, 1987) the elements of shelter include “adequate space, safety, water, sanitation, lighting, ventilation, and protection from noise and population”. UNCHS also suggested that these shared facilities include “ sufficient transportation, communications, shopping facilities and child care, religious and recreational services”. According to these useful element proposed by UNCHS, I have made my shelter cover the important elements.

    Shigeru Ban - Paper Tubes House

    Shigeru Ban - Paper Emergency Shelter

      PVC Pipe Shelter - Proposal (Elevations)

The next step that I wanted to achieve is to take my design of the shelter to the next level by making it mobilized. According to Oram (1979 as cited in Conroy, 1987), housing should meet four main requirements. First, it should provide adequate protection and security. Secondly, it should be secure from the dangers of fire and structural collapse. Third, it should be under the conditions, which promote good health; including clean and sufficient water supplies and the removal of various kinds of waste. Finally, it should ensure that the individuals living in the area must have adequate space and privacy. Thus, the idea that I made the shelter mobilized can correspond to the requirements made by Oram, (1979 as cited in Conroy, 1987). [9]

The inspiration for the design of my mobile shelter I got it from the garbage scavenger’s cart, which is the cart that they use for collecting the garbage to earn money. I research the existing size of the cart by asking my friend in Jakarta to measure it. After knowing the size of the cart I made drawings on how it could be transform into a shelter. By making the sides of the cart adjustable, the base and the sides could be the whole base of the shelter and while continue measuring it I found that the spaces of the mobile shelter is large enough to fit one family of five which includes both parents and three children. To show more about the space I made a conceptual model with the actual scale. It shows well on its height, and the area of the floor. I made a further work on this project because I think this project is the most important part of my whole experiments. It gives them a house yet it is portable which can be easily positioned anywhere.

There are parts added to the existing cart to be able to make the structure of the shelter. It needs the frame of the shelter’s structure and it also need a cover tent for the roof and walls. For the frame and the tent I will use the same material as the shelter that I design before, which is the PVC pipe for the frame and sacks for the cover of the roof and walls. Another material that I thought of was adjustable steel pole where they can adjust the sizes of the height of the shelter.
Another advantage from this mobile shelter is that they do not have to rent for a land. They could park anywhere and open their shelter in an empty land that has a clean environment.

To make it homier for the exterior, I design the cover with entrance door and some windows. I also design a roof window for them to have an exhaust from smoking, because out of 248,2 million people in Indonesia, twenty eight percent of them are smoking. That is about sixty five million people smokes in Indonesia. [10] Therefore, roof window would be convenience from them to have a smoke inside the shelter. Storage is also designed for the shelter where they could keep the frame and cover of the shelter. It is also could be used to store their private belongings. There would be another cover for the carts while their collecting the garbage to keep the carts clean.

Concept Drawings:

Conceptual Model:

As for the interior, I could use my previous experiment in above for the furniture and energy source at daytime. They wont be able to use a chair since the height is not high enough for them to sit on a chair, therefor crates could be use for tables and storages inside the shelter. For the energy source at daytime they could use the solar plastic bottle and for nighttime they could use some candles. For the water supplies, they could store it in the bottles, and use it to wash their clothes, dishes and other things.

The disadvantage of this design is that the shelter would not have a place to shower. The solution for this is to go to public bathrooms. In Indonesia public bathroom are accessible for the underprivileged.

For further research, I made a video showing the space of the shelter using my conceptual model, and use crates as tables, and some pillows and blanket for a place to sleep. The video shows the shelter during daytime and nighttime. The source for nighttime I lighted up some candles. This video shows the homey feelings inside the shelter.

Overall I found that this research has give me the understanding of the underprivileged people in Indonesia and it also give me an opportunity to help them in terms of education, job opportunity, and a better home. I also got to experience and earn more knowledge from my research. I really hope this project will be continued for future reference when I go back to Indonesia.

RMIT University
Interior Design 
History/Theory Project
By Crystal A. Tjandra

[1] Barientos, M. Indonesia – Poverty Headcount ratio. <>
[2] Alcock, P. Understanding Poverty. (London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1990.)
[3] Coleman, B. ‘How Makigami holds the key to unleashing the power of Origami’. 2009. <>
[4] ‘A Toughest Place To Be A Binman’. 2012, video recording, BBC Two, London, UK.
[5] Allard, T. ‘Plastic is fantastic for Indonesian scavengers’, 2009. <>
[6] MyShelter Foundation. ‘Liter of Light’. 2011. <>
[7] ‘Garbage Warrior’. 20011, video recording, Sundance Channel, USA.
[8] Ban, S. ‘Paper Emergency Shelters Fors UNHCR. Rwanda. 1999
[9] Conroy J. D., 1987. ‘Asian-Pacific Needs and Australian Responses’. Shelter for the Homeless.  Canberra Times Print. Canberra.
[10] Christina M. ‘Data statistic perokok Indonesia. 2011. <>


  1. karya nyata dari :
    Crystal A. Tjandra
    RMIT University
    Interior Design
    History/Theory Project

    This is great!! A sample of putting together your love and skill you got from school to produce a humble creation helping the poor people. They deserve a decent place to stay and grow their children. Your creation is a proof of statement "minimum income doesn't stop those people in feeling "wealthy" (or "sejahtera") in their heart and mind". Way to go Crystal!! Indonesia under priviledged people need more educated kids with golden heart like u!!!! xoxo, Imelda

  2. Ini sebuah konsep teori yang sangat bagus banget.. tinggal kita bisa realisasikan dengan baik dan benar. konsep ide pikiran ini bisa berjalan karena hati pikiran kita selalu ada untuk mensejahterakan rakyat Indonesia.
    ide ini bisa terlaksanakan dengan baik...kalo masyarakat Indonesia khususnya masyarakat sejahteranya bisa bersatu untuk peduli dan sayang kepada setiap manusia pra sejahtera...

    teruskan perjuangan ini untuk Bangsa Indonesia yang sejahtera mulia

  3. wat a masterpiece project that u have chii.. Indonesia needs this kind of work.. a great mind and peacefull heart for future and better Indonesia..
    lots of luv & kisses - Made

  4. crystal my dear.. knowledge without love is like body without soul. I saw lots of love in your project... believe that the underprivilleged people of Indonesia would be touched by your love.. Super!

  5. Chi, this is a well written and very inspirational work! I can only imagine the work that you'll do for the underprivileged when you go back :) keep it up! -van.