News / Asia

Jakarta Man Leads Slums Tours to Raise Awareness, Money

Ronny Poluan gives guided tours of Jakarta, Indonesia's slums to tourists
Ronny Poluan gives guided tours of Jakarta, Indonesia's slums to tourists


Brian Padden

Urban poverty is often hidden, relegated to neighborhoods tourists rarely visit. But in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, Ronny Poluan gives guided tours of city slums to tourists. Critics say he exploits poor people for personal gain. Poluan says he is trying to make a difference by raising awareness and money for development programs.

Ronny Poluan says the purpose of his weekly tour of Jakarta's poorest neighborhoods is not sightseeing but bringing people and cultures together.

"My idea is how a person, like an Indonesian person, meets with another person, comes together to see and then talk to each other and they can share what is their life," he said.

Poluan is an artist who began giving tours to his friends, then decided to open them up to the public to raise awareness about urban poverty. Participants peek inside cramped rooms where entire families live, see the harsh conditions under which they work. Many residents, like Wartini, are happy to open their homes to tourists.

She says she likes it that these foreigners want to know about them.

In Jakarta, as in cities all over the developing world, urban poverty is a growing problem. The World Bank says nearly 25 million people live in the Jakarta area, and every year 250,000 more come. Many end up living in tents and shacks next to rail lines.

The tour participants are mostly foreigners - ranging from the curious to students studying urban development, like Australian Lauren Naulty.

"I don't think you can come to Jakarta and not see it. It is Jakarta," said Naulty.

Critics say the tour exploits the poor for personal profit. Poluan rejects that argument, saying his foundation "Interkultur" gives half the nearly $50 fee to the community, in payments to area organizations, no-interest micro-loans and medical care.

And he has inspired some participants like Cheryl McKenzie, a teacher from Australia, to contribute skills, time and money. She is helping start a school.

"I had visions of, well this will help these children to grow up and aspire to go forward, to do more," she noted.

Poluan has become friends with many in the neighborhoods along the tour. He is inspired by the spirit of people who endure great hardship.

"I learn so much to see them. How they survive. How they are very tough guy[s] and what I see is their peaceful mind," he said.

Polaun hopes his tour will attract visitors with the expertise and funding to fight urban poverty and not keep it hidden.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs