December 06, 2013
Utami Mohan, Karina Susetya, Karla Susetya, and Desi Hakim enjoy making handbags. The beautiful handmade bags come in different colors and fabrics – and they are made with a purpose.
They make handbags to help the local orphanage run by the Karena Kasih Foundation. Both Utami and Desi lived there. The four girls recently showed their handiwork to Khabar Southeast Asia in Madiun, East Java.
"I make each bag with special care. I sew different kinds of patterns, and each pattern has a meaning," Utami, 18, explained. "This six-color fabric bag represents the six different religions in Indonesia. And the other bag with five triangles is about Pancasila, our five principals."
Utami told Khabar, "The Karena Kasih Foundation assisted me when both my parents died in an accident 17 years ago. Their staff took good care of me with love, just like a family. Now I have friends and importantly, I am ready to go to college."
Utami dreams of becoming a madrassa teacher. "I love reading and chanting the Qur'an. I can find peace and love in every verse I sing," she said.
More than a handbag
Desi became an orphan at age 5. Now 17, she works as a cashier at the local market.
"We are making these bags to send a message to all orphans to keep their faith," she said. "I just received a scholarship to study at the Islamic school in the area.
"It is not just about making bags; they are beautiful, but the story that we can tell to whoever will buy these bags is more important to us."
Christian twins Karina and Karla have volunteered at the Karena Kasih Foundation since 2008. They help design and market the bags, which sell for Rp 30,000 – 300,000 ($3 - $27). The proceeds are donated to help the orphanage.
"Thank you, Karena Kasih Foundation, for this opportunity. We are glad we can assist Utami and Desi to make a difference in their community," Karina told Khabar.
"I bring it to the church and sell it to parishioners. I also bring it to work, and many people buy it," added Karla. "It is not only about the bags, but the story will lead to more discussions with every purchase."
A good example of sisterhood
Subari Mansour, a 56 year-old cleric in Madiun, told Khabar he admires the effort of the four girls.
"This is a good example. What they have done is in line with Islamic teachings. In Islam, Muhammad encourages us to help our brothers and sisters, especially in difficult times," he told Khabar.
Magdalena Haryati, director of the Karena Kasih Foundation, told Khabar the handbag project shows how youth can impact society.
"We help them by providing support, but all of the ideas are coming from the group," she said. "We hope small activities like this will encourage more youth to be involved in sharing love, peace, tolerance, and harmony."