Based on the interview with Jorge Marquez, the founder of Free and Safe Foundation.
My name is Jorge Marquez, and I am from Mexico. I grew up, like many Indonesian kids, playing football in the street and just dreaming about becoming a professional footballer. When I was 20, I had the opportunity to go and play football in the United States. And in 2013, I had the chance to come to Indonesia and be a football coach for kids here in Bandung, Indonesia.
Indonesians and Mexicans are very similar. We have friendly people, and the living conditions are quite similar.
Free and Safe Foundation and How It All Started
In 2016, I had the opportunity to go play football in Papua, Indonesia. We had the chance to play football inside the prison in Sentani. It was so fun, just casually playing football with them, making them forget how is it like living behind bars. After we came back to Bandung, I thought to myself, I should be doing something like this with kids in Bandung Juvenile Prison. That’s how the Free and Safe Organisation was born.
When I had an opportunity to go and start coaching kids in the juvenile detention centre here in Bandung, I realised that they need help, especially after prison, because they would come back to society and yet be ashamed to go back home to their “kampung”, or villages, after being admitted to prison. They cannot find any jobs, as many of them didn’t even finish high school. Surely, it’s a hard time for many of them.
The name Free and Safe, that we put as the name of the foundation, is because we want these kids to be free, Free and Safe!. We help these kids who had finished serving their time in the detention centre have a transition home. We provide them with a place to stay, food, and training, and we also help them to go back to school or find jobs.
This transition home is very close to my own home. So we can easily spend time with them, we teach them English, and they go through the whole programme from the morning until the evening, containing at least two hours of English language and basic computer skills classes. They also have basic skill classes, like cooking class and craftsmanship.
We have seen so many kids we took care of under our wings being transformed. And it’s fascinating what’s happening to see how much these kids are willing to change their life path if we give them a second chance. One boy grew up in an orphanage, and now he’s 17 years old, and we are able to send him to a good, reputable university here in Bandung.
What made me deeply involved with them?
What sparks me to coach football to these kids? It started when Caron (my wife) and I helped an orphanage in Mexico after I finished my football scholarship. We managed 60 kids there, and we started a football team. And Caron was in charge of the smaller children’s team, from 0-15 years old.
Caron always wanted to come to Indonesia. So right after we spent some time in Mexico, we moved to Indonesia in 2013. That was just the perfect time to move, as we haven't had any children on our own at that time. When we got here, in Indonesia, frankly, the situation was similar to what we experienced in Mexico.
A lot of these kids we take care of at Free and Safe, didn’t have a father figure, came from a broken home or abusive family, physically and mentally. So for me, it was more of “Is this good enough? Or can we do more to help these kids”?
We felt like, maybe we can prepare them to be able to go back to society and help them reshape themselves to be better citizens.
We don’t want boys to go back to prison; we don’t want orphans to be orphans anymore. We want them to have a place where they can feel loved.
If you were asking about my relationship with the boys, I love the boys; they are not just any kids. They are part of my family, and they know that. It sounds weird, but I will do anything for them.
You know when you have somebody you love, you take a long road to make sure they are safe.
My cellphone will be buzzing all day long from the texts of the kids I have trained before, the boys who have already got out of prison. I don’t know if they see me as their father, or they see me like their “Kakak” or brother. But, you know, when you have somebody you love, you take care of them.
How can we help?
Right now, we are only able to provide for four kids in the transition house and a few extra meals for the kids inside the prison. We can’t depend at all on donations because these donations are not tangible. Because of COVID-19, we are also losing donors. So what might happen is we might not be able to afford the transition house, and the foundation will be closed down.
That is why we are trying to sell this t-shirt: to be able to help us a little bit with their expenses. This t-shirt represents all of us, that we should totally be better than we were yesterday because you are standing at the beginning of something amazing. And with your every purchase, you are helping the boys at the transition home get the second chance they deserve, from the orphaned and the imprisoned to the impoverished.
With only 8.05$, you are putting a meal on the plate of our foster kids, housing them, and sending them to school. Every purchase of a t-shirt really helps us to help more kids.
Go to The People of Asia's Social Marketplace to purchase these amazing t-shirt to help Free and Safe fund the transition home.
Help us help more kids
Growing up in Mexico, I needed help. And thanks to football, I had the opportunity to go to the United States and get a college scholarship, play football there, and finish with a degree, which changed my life. I want the same for many of these kids.
Our biggest dream is for the kids to become better people when they have families of their own. For them to become better people, to become good husbands and fathers, and to find decent jobs in the future, I keep on telling them, “you have to dream big”. And I wish I will be able to keep providing them home.