Best friends Ina, Talita, Tersya, Jani and Putri call Rote Island home. Life in this stunning part of the world holds many challenges for children living in poverty. But with a little help from the local church and Compassion, these unstoppable girls are taking on the future.

Stunning Rote Island lies 100 kilometres off the coast of West Timor, Indonesia.

Yet the remote beauty and peaceful lifestyle come at a cost: local schools lack basic supplies, opportunities are scarce, and accessing electricity and clean water is a challenge. For many families, life is a daily struggle to survive.

Rote 1 All Girls Sunset

Best friends Ina, Talita, Tersya, Jani and Putri call Rote home. The girls’ fathers work as fishermen, dependent on the waves and tides for their income and daily meals.

Rote 2 Four Girls Running

Besides being friends and neighbours, the girls have another thing in common: in May 2019, they joined Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program, along with 1600 other children across the island.

With the support of Compassion’s local church partners, these confident girls are unstoppable.

These are their voices.

Ina, 11: “I want adults to protect more children”

Rote 7 Ina Smiling

“I want to be a teacher. I think it’s a cool job. The Compassion centre can help me because I am learning to shape my character by reading the Bible and praying.

“I have a best friend, Elsi. She loves to share her food with me. I like to play with her and work together on our school assignments. The best thing about being a girl is that I can put face powder on my face to make me look beautiful.

“I like living here because wherever you go, people know each other. But the weather is very hot and causes a long dry season. If I could change my community, I would want adults to protect more children.”

Talita, 8: “As a girl, I think I’m beautiful”

Rote 3 Talita Smiling

“As a girl, I think I’m beautiful. That’s what makes me special. Me and my friends love to play at the beach. We take a boat and paddle around together.

“I want to be a teacher because I like to act as a teacher to my friends. To be a teacher, physically, I have to be healthy; I get food every time I go to the Compassion centre.

“I also want to have a big house, so I can have more space. At home, the electricity is off for long hours, which means I can’t study at night.”

Tersya, 11: “When we’re together, we know how to do fun things”

Rote 4 Tersya Look Away

“The best thing about being a girl is I can wear earrings that boys couldn’t wear. A girl can wear many ornaments but still look beautiful.

“I want to be a teacher and hope that we will have better facilities at our school in the future. We don’t have computers and our chairs and tables are broken. At the centre, my tutor teaches me many lessons. It gives me information that helps me at school.

“My best friends are Elsi and Oliv. When we are together, we always know how to do fun things. We love to look for snails on the beach at low tide. I can go to the beach every day and catch fish or snails with my friends. I can eat fish every day when there are no big waves on the sea, and the fishermen can bring a lot of fish home.

“If I could change my community, I would want that one day in my village, we will have a fish company. It will mean that we can still eat fish when there are big waves in the sea.”

Jani, 9: “My tutor helps me to reach my dream”

Rote 6 Jani Orange Shirt

“I think all girls are beautiful, and I think I’m beautiful. My father loves me because I am a girl and that makes me feel special. When a girl becomes an adult, she can get pregnant and have a baby. Only women can get pregnant.

“I want to be a doctor because I want to help others. Here in my village, we don’t have a doctor. We have to travel to the city when we need a doctor. At the centre, my tutor teaches me so I can be smart. I know that to be a doctor I must be smart, and my tutor helps me to reach my dream.

“Every day, I can play together with my friends, whether at home or at the beach. We share our food with each other, too. I like to live here because I have lots of friends and they live close to me.

“Our school has no computer like in the city. We can’t learn how to use it because we don’t have one at school. Markers are often all used up at school so my teacher can’t write on the whiteboard. I want to have a big school with complete facilities, like in the city.

Rote 5 Jani and Julenda

“My sister Julenda easily cries when I tease her. She loves to play with a Barbie doll, and she is very close to my mother. I like my sister because she is diligent in helping my mother in the kitchen, washing the dishes and cooking. I like my sister because she loves me, and she always plays with me at home when my friends can’t come to my house.”

Putri, 8: “A girl should be protected”

Rote 8 Putri and Jani Low Five

“A girl always gets protected by others, because a girl should be protected.

“The hardest thing about living on Rote is that clean water is hard to find. We need to take water from a borehole and bring it back in a bucket. It makes us tired, but we need to do it.

“If I could change my community, I would want parents to love their children more and to stop physical punishment when we make a mistake.

“My mother loves to teach me in the kitchen so I can be like her when I grow up. The hardest thing about being a girl is that a girl is expected to help her mother in the kitchen, while boys are free to play outside.

“I want to be a teacher and go to Jakarta because I want to know how to travel by aeroplane. At the centre, my tutor teaches me to be a smart girl but also with a good attitude. To be a teacher, I should know how to behave, and my tutor teaches me those things.”

Ina, Talita, Tersya, Jani and Putri are among 1600 children living in poverty on Rote Island who have new opportunities to grow, learn and thrive thanks to their local churches’ partnerships with Compassion.

With the love and support of their families, and sponsors like you, they can look to the future with a new hope and even more confidence!

Sponsor a child today to help release them from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Words and interviews by Vera Aurima

Photos by Jake Thomas