The adage “age is just a number” has never been truer than in the case of Faye Simanjuntak. Having found out about the horrors of child trafficking, the young Faye decided that she had to act. Faye wasted no time in working towards making her visions a reality. And thus, Rumah Faye was born. An NGO with a focus on protecting and sheltering victims of—and the prevention of—child-trafficking, Rumah Faye has accomplished a great deal in the five years of its operation. And believe Faye when she says that this is only the beginning. Below is Indonesia Tatler’s exclusive interview with the girl who is changing the world.
How did you discover your passion? Who inspires you?
I cannot pinpoint a specific time when I discovered my passion. I guess that I had always known that I want to help people, I just didn’t know how. When I learnt about child sex trafficking, I think I realised that this is where I felt called to work.
Child sex trafficking is a global issue where injustice thrives. I think passion finds you. Sure, you have got to work for it, work to find it, but at the end of the day, your passion will reveal itself to be the driving force in all that you do. It’s probably not going to be a super-spiritual or supernatural moment, but you’ll know when you find it. I discovered my passion after a Google search and shedding more than a few tears.
My mum, dad, and grandparents have always been my inspiration. I’ve always wanted to be hardworking like my mum, empathetic like my dad, powerful like my grandmother, and passionate like my grandfather. In different ways, my family have all inspired me and supported me in making a difference. For that, I will always be thankful.
Tell us about your current project
Rumah Faye will always be a work in progress. Our efforts in preventing child sex exploitation are ongoing and new things are always being thrown our way. We have been given countless opportunities to work together with other NGOs both in Indonesia and around the world in ways that I never thought would be possible.
Another major project we are working on is the Youth Team. Personally, I strongly believe in the power of speech that my peers and I hold. As youths, I think that we have a type of superpower that can easily be used to do good in the world. This is firmly reflected in Rumah Faye. We work together to find young people who are passionate about preventing child sex exploitation. Though we have a large number of volunteers in Jakarta, we hope to have a specific programme targeted at teenagers willing to make a difference.
This means that we are working on how to further implement young people in Rumah Faye, both in speaking to others and reaching out to areas with children at risk. All they have to do to start helping is fill in a form, answer a few questions, and get their parents’ consent to become a representative of Rumah Faye. If they are admitted, they will become instrumental parts of our NGO. This is still in the planning stage, but I have been excited for this since Rumah Faye started and hope to see this succeed.
Please elaborate on your ultimate dream. How will your desired college major directly or indirectly complement this?
I’m 15! I still do not really know what I want to do with my life yet. Naturally I am most excited to see Rumah Faye grow and expand in Indonesia. I hope to see it grow in new areas in Indonesia and reach new people. I want to continue working closely with it and making sure it holds the same values it does today.
Personally, I’m still unsure what I want to major in. I know for a fact that I want to make a difference in the world, and I always thought I would do that through politics. I have always been interested in being part of the Ministry of Female Empowerment and Child Protection or Ministry of Law and Human Rights. I was leaning towards Political Science as a major because I’ve always seen myself as a social scientist. I think that I can make the most difference from within the government, whether as a minister or an official.
Lately, however, I have not been quite sure. As a 15-year-old, a major part of growing up is touring colleges and picking majors. Southeast Asian studies are very alluring lately, and so have a couple of other different subjects. To be fair, there is time to experience them all, right? I do not know for certain what I will be doing, or how it will help Rumah Faye. I do know, however, that it will certainly be to increase Rumah Faye’s activities and involvements with society. My dream ultimately would be to change the world. It sounds unbelievably cheesy, I know, but I genuinely do want to make my country, and one day the world, a better place.
How do your parents, friends, and those around you support your passions?
I posted a photo of the questions that were sent to me onto my Snapchat Story while I was working on them. As I was answering this very question, I got a text from one of my American friends: “We support you by being with u every step of the way even though we’re across the globe!!!” it said. I could barely hold back how touched I was by the message.
My closest friends have been with me since day one. I can easily tell you all of their names right off the top of my head. They are constantly supporting, rallying, and offering their help whenever they can lend a hand, wherever they are in the world. People have told me that I cannot do it, that it was impossible, and that I am too young. It was their words and enthusiasm that have pushed me to work hard and help others.
Do not even get me started on my family. My mum, dad, brother, and grandparents have been there since day zero. They were there when I broke down and found out about child prostitution and they were there when Rumah Faye was made official. I’m going to be completely honest and say that my grandfather did not believe in me at first. My role model did not believe in me. I know, heartbreaking. I tell everyone this because, honestly? There are going to be people you look up to who will not always believe in or trust you. Prove them wrong.
My mum and dad have always believed in me and have never doubted me. If my friends helped me to work hard, my parents pushed me to work hard. They were the ones who taught me to love, to empathise, to believe in people, and most importantly, to believe in humanity. To know that no matter how hard things could and probably would get, people are still good. They have taught me discipline and respect, and also how to have fun in the craziest places. Adaptability, humility, and understanding are among other virtues that I grew up with. Honestly, the whole reason I can be here today is all thanks to my parents.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced and what about the advantages that you have?
Personally, my biggest challenge was getting people to take me seriously as a teenage activist. When I first started Rumah Faye, people told me over and over and over again to stop—that I could not do it, that it was not worth it. However, over the past couple of years, the response has gotten much better though.
Nowadays, people are much more accepting and understanding of the things that I wish to talk about. This seamlessly leads to my advantages, in the sense that I’m privileged to be able to have a voice. As a young Indonesian teenager, I am very lucky to be able to share my thoughts and opinions. I feel that being a teenager allows me to be heard better. I’m also lucky to have so much support from my family, who continuously open new doors that I did not even know existed.
How would you encourage youths around you with similar dreams?
I encourage them by trying to help them make connections. As teenagers, I feel like so many of us want to make a difference. The problem is, most do not have the means to fulfill that. As a person who has been able to build connections and friendships with various people over the years, I work hard to try to open doors for other teenagers who want to make a difference too. I try to encourage them to stay in school and give opportunities, whether vocational or educational as needed.
What do you consider as your biggest accomplishment?
I’d like to think Rumah Faye is! Over the past few years, Rumah Faye has grown so much more than I ever thought it could. In its young age, we have been able to reach so many people and even launch our new shelter. We are also one of the only NGOs in Indonesia with three complete programmes that offer proper help in preventing child prostitution. I am so thankful that we have been able to get this far and hope to see Rumah Faye flourish more and reach even more people around Indonesia.