"My wife, Kiara Regina, and I were born in west Java, and after many struggles we have finally found a way to earn a decent living. Life was difficult in Java, and though I had majored in automotive mechanics, I had to take jobs as a builder, as a door-to-door salesman, and as the personal assistant of a famous singer. During that time I took many other responsibilities, including administrative where I learned to use the computer and internet. However her popularity diminished and I was out of a job.
"My wife had a good job in an advertising company and she had a good salary, but the office was so far away that she had to take several buses. She would have to leave home by 5 am and arrive back around 11 o'clock at night. She was exhausted and I felt sorry for her.
"One day, a woman from our church told us her sister was setting up a restaurant in Bali and needed help, so she asked if we were interested. The woman said we would have a place to stay and eat for free. My wife and I agreed to try it, thinking we could improve our lives this way.
"We set off for Bali by bus – a 30 hour ride which made my wife sick. We didn't have much money with us and we were greeted by the restaurant owner at the bus station. She was in a bad mood and ordered us into the car. When we arrived we thought we could freshen up and then go for a walk, take a look around, but we were wrong.
"We were ordered to peel three kilos of onions to be fried as the restaurant would be opening the following day. That's when we started to get suspicious about this deal. We peeled onions from 7pm to midnight, and at first our eyes were watery from the onions. But by midnight our tears were real, we couldn't believe our misfortune.
"To make matters worse, my wife and I were not allowed to share the same room! Though we were legally married, this woman and her husband belonged to a different church and they wouldn't allow it because we were not in their church. I think they were more like a sect.
"We lasted a month in this place, more of a kiosk for their followers than a restaurant. Though we were fed, we were forced to work from 5 am to 1 am every day. We never got paid, so we realized this was some form of slavery.
"We managed to get a job at another restaurant but when the woman found out she called the other owner and we lost the job. I didn't understand what was said, I could hardly speak the language. The woman and her husband put us in a taxi and told the driver to take us to the bus station but we didn't have enough money for tickets home.
"We were scared and crying in the taxi and the driver, Harry, took pity on us. He heard our story and took us to his home. His family was very understanding and they offered us a place to stay. Harry's brother-in-law worked in construction and the following day I had a job with a salary! My wife got a job at a textile workshop and Harry let us stay with them until we got back on our feet, which took a year.
"My wife was allowed to take home fabric residuals, and that's how we began to make cushion covers and pillow cases. Little by little we started getting orders and our little venture began to take shape. We were able to repay the kindness that Harry and his family showed us by inviting them to join us, and orders just keep growing.
"We chose to focus on cushion covers and pillow cases because we wouldn't need a large capital. Also, we can be as creative as we want to be with the designs and styles, including embroidery, beadwork, and more.
"We hope we can expand our venture so we can help other crafts people such as ourselves. We're counting on Novica to help us realize our dreams: to be able to secure a living from our art, to be able to preserve an aspect of Indonesian artistry, and to be able to create jobs for the community."