Zulkiran Minrukom bounds to the stage at Blang Krueng relief
camp, grabs a microphone like a Vegas lounge singer, and then turns
to face the formidable crowd ... and freezes.
Blink, blink. He just needs to start singing and he'll warm up.
Blink, blink. Any song will do. "Old MacDonald." "Smoke on the
Blink, blink. Perhaps we should give him some time. After all,
Zulkiran is only 5 years old and this is probably his first singing
contest. Blink. Deep breath, and finally, he warbles a love song
about a girl named Zahra. The crowd breathes a sigh of relief.
Welcome to PM Idol, a contest run by the Indonesian Red Cross and
modeled loosely on the "American Idol" television show. It's part of
a psychological support program offered to children, like Zulkiran,
who are survivors of last year's Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed
200,000 and left more than 500,000 homeless. Organizers say giving
children a chance to express themselves through song or poetry
allows them to draw on inner strengths that every child has, and is
a crucial step toward normalcy.
"We always work with teaching the idea that 'I have something, I
can do something, and I am something,' " says Amin Khoja, a psycho-
social programs specialist for the American Red Cross, which helped
the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) to develop the PM Idol program.
"Children can perform something, and when they build their internal
resources, they can do something more. Because of this disaster,
children have lost parents or teachers, they have lost their inner
resources. So we hope this helps them to rebuild their own
Participants in the contest become stars not just in their relief
camp, in front of other children and parents, but also on weekly
radio talk shows, hosted by PMI psychiatrists or counselors every
Friday night. The top three winners for each category - singing for
boys, singing for girls, and poetry reading - are recorded and
replayed across the province.
The idea for the contest was serendipitous, but sprung from the
Indonesian culture's profound love of music. A few months back, the
Red Cross had been showing cartoons at a relief camp on hygiene and
other issues when the projector broke down. While technicians
struggled to get the projector working, two little girls took a
microphone and began singing popular Indonesian songs. The crowd
Now, for the month of December, Red Cross workers are fanning out
to relief camps in Banda Aceh and surrounding villages, conducting
two local contests per week. …