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Chaim Fetter and his pursuit of happiness

Panca Nugraha

The Jakarta Post

West Lombok  /  Wed, June 14, 2017  /  10:29 am
Chaim Fetter and his pursuit of happiness

Fun moments: Yayasan Peduli Anak (YPA) founder Chaim Fetter smiles as he watches the children’s cracker eating competition. (JP/Panca Nugraha)

An established businessman, online store founder Chaim Fetter has found true happiness sharing his life with street children.

Long before starting his online business in 2014, the Dutchman set up Yayasan Peduli Anak (YPA), in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), in 2006 with his childhood friends from the Netherlands and several others from Lombok.

Providing shelter, protection, education and health care for street children and disadvantaged youngsters, the foundation has helped over 1,700 children in Lombok.

“If you seek the true meaning of happiness, you can find it among the children you’ve helped by offering them a brighter future. The smiles they flash are invaluable,” 35-year-old Fetter told The Jakarta Post recently.

Occupying 1.5 hectares in Langko village, Lingsar district, West Lombok regency, the YPA has facilities for children and teenagers, including a kitchen, clinic, sporting grounds and swimming pool.

In the backyard, visitors can find the YPA elementary school, which was inaugurated by NTB Governor Muhammad Zainul Majdi in 2010. Two years later, the school was awarded accreditation A, the highest academic acknowledgement from the provincial school accreditation agency.

The forty-five employees at the YPA comprise primary school teachers, skill counselors, cooks and security officers.

Aiming high: Children play basketball in the vast yard of Yayasan Peduli Anak (YPA) in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.(JP/Panca Nugraha)

Fetter was playing with several YPA students when the Post visited the foundation.

“Chaim, come on, let’s play chess again,” said Ramli, one of the YPA youngsters. A junior high school student, Ramli has been under YPA care since he was a fourth grader because his family could not afford his education.

“Chaim is like a brother and father to me. He keeps encouraging us, assuring that we can also progress and succeed like other accomplished people,” Ramli said.

Although Fetter moved to Jakarta after starting in 2014, he regularly visits Lombok to spend time with the YPA children.

Fetter founded YPA in 2004, when at 23 he found himself economically established but not happy.

“I was experiencing a midlife crisis. With the money and everything I had, I felt something was missing. I wasn’t quite happy at the time,” he revealed.

Fetter and his friends spent their long vacation at the end of that year at the popular Gili Trawangan Island, where he found Hadi, a 9-year-old street singer who had dropped out of school for economic reasons.

Fetter strived to put Hadi back in school. He met with the principal of Gili Trawangan elementary school to request that Hadi be enrolled, guaranteeing that the child’s school fees, accommodation and other needs would be taken care of.

Learning while playing: Children play with a toy laptop in Yayasan Peduli Anak (YPA).(JP/Panca Nugraha)

Fetter returned to the Netherlands but returned to West Nusa Tenggara several months later. After visiting Gili Trawangan, he proceeded to Mataram, where he again noticed many children of Hadi’s age roaming the streets, singing and even begging at shopping centers. Fetter asked 10 students of Mataram University to conduct a survey on the street children to find out their reasons for leaving school.

Fetter discovered that some of them were wandering because their parents had gone abroad as migrant workers, while others came from poor families and the rest left school after their parents’ divorced.

“I felt very sad. I believed the children badly needed help and somebody should care to change their future,” he recalled.

Fetter made a life-changing decision. He sold his firm and assets in the Netherlands and decided to live in Mataram.

“In 2005, I rented a house in Mataram to accommodate 10 to 20 children in an attempt to send them back to school,” he said.

Fetter’s social effort was featured by a Dutch TV station, which led to donations from various circles. With his own money and donated funds, he later bought a plot of land to build the YPA in West Lombok in 2006. Today, the YPA provides shelter and care for 95 children and provides educational assistance under the family care program for around 300 others living outside the YPA.

Helping children from poor families and returning them to their parents are part of the YPA’s mission.

“We believe that the family environment is the best place for children’s growth,” he said.

Healthy and happy: Children play soccer in the yard of Yayasan Peduli Anak (YPA) in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.(JP/Panca Nugraha)

In 2015, the YPA was named the only family care institution in NTB to earn the highest accreditation from the Social Affairs Ministry.

Looking back, Fetter shared his childhood wasn’t much different from the Lombok children. Living in a small Dutch town with a modest family, 7-year-old Fetter had to help his mother earn money after his parents separated.

Fetter, also an animal lover, became an advocate against animal cruelty when he was only 11 years old. At 13, he received an award from the animal protection agency in the Netherlands.

However, his mother asked him to discontinue his activity and focus on his formal education instead.

“I felt a void in my life. But I was trying to find another activity as a substitute for it. I created a website and web shop that turned into a successful venture,” he noted. At 23, while this business was flourishing back home, Fetter felt something was lacking until he found a purpose for his life while vacationing in Indonesia.

The man, who is married to an Indonesian, Martina Natratilova, said the YPA activity was the reason behind the establishment of the Jakarta-based online store,

“To meet the needs of YPA children, my savings and donation funds were depleting. There should be another business to support the foundation’s continuity. That’s why my friends and I opened In the long-term, 5 percent of its profit will cover YPA expenses,” he said.

Fetter hopes to see more foundations working to help street children.

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