“A community needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings. You, the people, need to get this soul.” -Pope John Paul II
What is “soul,” this essential ingredient that makes a community a home? Perhaps it our connection to one another, the compassion we show towards others, the love that holds us together.
Research has correlated healthy childhood development with positive support for the child’s family and home values from community and social structures. Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory nests a child’s self and family with larger surrounding community structures, acknowledging the importance of their interconnection.
However, as a study by Southern Methodist University asserts that when surrounding values clash with family’s values, the child must grow up in a “deficit model.”
Maybe this is where Pope John Paul II’s “soul” becomes crucial. The “soul” is a point of connection, whether through acknowleding universal principles, shared values or common expereinces, the soul can draw different and potentially adversarial circles of a community together on common ground. It is an intangible something that connects pieces together to make a “home” with people who so diverse.
A recent project started by Global Peace Foundation Indonesia with the financial support of Samsung Insurance Company called the Rumah Susun Life Park Project is a case in point. The project brings outs the relevance and importance of the Global Peace Foundation approach.
Although it may seem like a simple park project, it has sparked a change that is helping residents find their “soul.” Simple neighborhood clean-ups have brought together neighbors who were virtual strangers who now work together to clean their shared community space.
As Tokuda Yor Ching Poon of GPF Indonesia said, the project is "building a sense of ownership. If they don’t care about their own living environment, how can they learn to care about the nation?”
Recently, volunteers have begun providing enrichment classes at the park. Taekwondo and futsal classes are teaching local youth discipline, patience and team work. Aerobic classes are bringing neighborhood mothers together. English classes are opening education opportunities.
Slowly, a deep and meaningful sense of family and community is emerging as the people discover their soul.
The Global Peace Foundation-Indonesia, in partnerships with local governments, hopes to replicate this community-building model throughout Indonesia. Local officials have already said that they hope projects such as Life Park can facilitate infrastructural change and development to underserviced areas.
The cornerstone of the project is the relationships being formed, the soul that is making the neighborhood a home for its residents. Without it, Rumah Susun was just a group of people living side by side without care for each other and their environment. With it, Life Park has become more than just a slab of concrete where children can play, it has become the vital soil from which a beautiful community will blossom.
Like Gandhi’s saying, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and soul of its people,” the future and legacy of Rumah Susun lies in the soul of its people, and Global Peace Foundation has brought it to live with the vision that we are connected to each other as one family under God.
For more photos visit: Life Park Project
Watch highlights from the Life Park Project below.