Pak Alfian, a 32-year-old husband and father, is one of eight Vibrant Village Foundation and Mercy Corps street food-cart vendors working as part of the My Child’s Café, or Kedai Balitaku (KeBal), program. Pak Alfian is an amiable person, easily mingling with people in his neighborhood. He likes to play with the children in his community including his two daughters – a six-year-old in primary school, and a four-year-old. Pak migrated with his family from his hometown in Lampung, Sumatra, to the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2010, for the same reason many other migrants do: the hope of making a better living. When he first arrived in Jakarta, Pak Alfian started working as a construction mason. This job paid an average daily wage of 50,000 Indonesian rupiahs (about $5.50), but the working hours were inconsistent due to uncertain demand.
At the end of 2010, Pak Alfian’s family moved into a rented room, located near a construction site in the neighborhood of Tegal Alur, where he could find regular work. Fortuitously, the room he rented was located near one of KeBal’s cooking centers. Three months after seeing advertisements at the cooking center, Alfian signed up to become one of KeBal’s vendors.
He began selling all KeBal menu items in the first week of March, 2011, and earned more than 750,000 rupiahs ($82) from his first month of sales. “I used my money to pay my child’s school fees.” Nowadays, Pak Alfian earns an average net profit of 1,200,000 rupiahs ($131) per month working from six to ten-thirty each morning. With his afternoons free, Pak Alfian has the opportunity to find additional income sources or begin a second shift offered by KeBal to sell healthy foods in the afternoon.
Pak Alfian works hard to explain the benefits of KeBal's products to the mothers to build their trust as return customers. He explains how his food is produced, the nutritional value and that his products are affordable. He already has many loyal customers and plans to expand his market soon. He believes that this new company has a noble vision, "I will always participate and promote Kedai Balitaku by passing on knowledge and transfering my skils to other vendors,” he says. And with more vendors, more children can eat nutritious meals, at affordable prices.
In the past two years, Mercy Corps' innovative program in Jakarta captured a lot of press attention. The project, My Child's Cafe, or Kebal in Indonesian, combines a sustainable, job-creating business model with providing nutritious snacks and meals for children in Jakarta's inner city.
The New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning Tina Rosenberg wrote: “Mercy Corps has worked hard to infuse KeBal with a business mentality…KeBal is probably the riskiest kind of social business. Even if it fails, it is an admirable idea. There was probably no other way to solve the problem of getting healthy food to Jakarta’s children. Boldness is often lacking in established nongovernmental groups, and in this case, it is something to applaud.”
August 2012, The Jakarta Globe
May 2011, New York Times
June 27, 2011, PBS Newshour
June 7, 2011, Taste for Travel