This year is closed with a thought that still a lot to be done to support heritage movements in Indonesia. The Indonesia Heritage Trust has a very dedicated and energetic Executive Director and a group of very generous Board of Directors, but the Trust still struggles to have its own office, find an endowment fund and creating longer term programs which give more impacts to the country. Efforts to create the endowment fund should be really thought seriously because it is difficult to survive merely from donations. How certain a possibility to sustain the organization in a long run?

The same situation applies for other heritage organizations. Aren't we all creating projects to generate income? Idealism is good but very difficult to implement it without monetary means. For six year (1998-2004) I was the Executive Director of Sumatra Heritage Trust and I knew perfectly all headaches about operational costs. My colleagues and I had to come up with ideas what to do next. We had hardly a pause to be relax about this issue. I myself worked as a full time volunteer but the staff had to be -at least modestly- paid. We needed telephone and Internet to be paid. We needed electricity to turn on computers. We needed to pay printing company and bought stamps for our newsletters.

We developed souvenir designs to produce and to sell. We asked a right to reproduce old pictures and this was the best seller ever. People loved to see their city in the past and probably dreamed to get it back, at least in their living room. When we lacked of cash, we brought several reproductions to a businessman, approached him and we went back to our office with several million rupiahs. Selling souvenirs were not very difficult, getting a trust from someone who had money was difficult. It took a lot of time and effort to build network and trust. We sold our reputation, not merely souvenirs. There were times when things didn't work as we expected, either. Once I ended up sold my gold jewellery to pay the staff.

I tried to find out, too, how to create an endowment fund. I knew that an ex-minister in Jakarta set up a non-profit organization funded by an endowment fund from a foreign agency. They simply used the interest of the deposited money. I wish I could get such an opportunity. Unluckily it was almost zero chance to get an endowment fund without international reputation and political influence. There were a lot and a lot funding schemes out there, mostly for projects and you can save a bit if any for an endowment fund. How many projects did we have to create to be able to save a decent amount which produces sufficient interest for operational costs?

Unfortunately after so many years, the situation in general didn't shift much. It stays the same until 2008. On one side this struggle makes most heritage activists in Indonesia tough. This situation is a kind of test for commitment and dedication. On the other side it slow down achievements that possibly could be achieved or even dismiss the chances at all. But again, as we always said, keep being optimist and isn't it that makes us all until now still doing what we are doing?

For my heritage fellows, Happy New Year 2009 and keep our fingers crossed for a better heritage movement all over the world.


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