ACTNews, JAKARTA – One after another, people were registering their names to get free meal packages. They then went back to their own shops, waiting for the meal packages to be delivered. Suwono, the owner of the warteg (small restaurant), enthusiastically packaged the meals and delivered them himself to the merchants along Jl. Jenderal Urip Sumoharjo.
He gave hundreds of free meal packages to his colleagues who work on the street. Suwono was so grateful to be able to collaborate with ACT to distribute 100 meal packages every day through the Free Meal Operation program as a form of solidarity with fellow informal workers.
"I see that my friends, the merchants in the market, have no income since the market have been quite empty for days. With this free meal distribution, they can eat for free. They don't need to spend money for lunch, and they can save it. For instance, they can save the IDR 15,000 that they usually spend for lunch," said Suwono.
The shops along Jl. Urip Sumoharjo have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Since people are no longer going out of their homes to limit interactions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the market has been empty.
The traders have also been advised by the government to close their shops. Unfortunately, not all of the traders closed their shops. Some have to keep working because they have no choice. Even Suwono admitted that he himself is afraid of the disease.
"It is our obligation to make a living. If not going out, how can we work? It’s not that we don’t want to stay inside, but we have no choice. We are also very afraid of the disease," he said. He hoped the COVID-19 will be gone so that he can return to his normal life.
Suwono's wife is preparing the meal packages for the beneficiaries. (ACTNews / Reza Mardhani)
This was also revealed by Suparman, an owner of a clothing shop on Jl. Jenderal Urip Sumoharjo, Jatinegara. Suparman chose to open his shop on Thursday (3/26). Nevertheless, he admitted that his income fell to about 50%. He understood because people are obeying the government’s instruction to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"After this outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, my income has been significantly reduced. Usually, people gather here to do window shopping. In one day, I used to earn a gross income of from IDR 400,000 – 500,000. Now we earn IDR 200,000 at most. With this free meal distribution, I feel very grateful. At least we can save the money that I usually spend for lunch," Suparman said.
Nali, a parking attendant on Jl. Urip Sumoharjo, also felt the impact of COVID-19 on his economy. Working from early in the morning, he only received around IDR 40,000. "My income has been drastically decreasing. Today, I earn only IDR 40,000. Normally, I can receive up to more than IDR 100,000 to 200,000, "said Nali.
Later that afternoon, people were still waiting in line to get free meal packages. Not only local shop owners, scavengers and online taxi drivers who passed by also benefitted from this distribution. Some did not go straight home, but instead chat with one another, about which Suwono seemed happy.
"I am very happy. At least I can be rather useful for people around here," joked Suwono. "Thanks to ACT. If not for ACT, we can't do this. With ACT, we can help each other. I can also see people laughing and smiling," continued Suwono.