Not sure if this is a conundrum the world over or is specific to a place like Jakarta where families in far flung villages are being supported by working children in big cities.
We have 4 staff that we spend an awful lot of time with. They all speak varying degrees of english, and we get by with zero bahasa, so the varying degrees range from moderate to excellent (not complaining about this, but if they didn't know english we would have been forced to learn more bahasa - we have been spoilt in the true sense of the word).
Now for the most part, I really like my staff. Two of them I like 99.99% of the time, two are similar ages to me and we have about 1 week a month where there is a bit of tension, but it resolves itself and we go on for another 3 weeks of getting along fine (headstrong x 3 does not always work). Either way - we are lucky to have them and that's why after 3 years we have no intention of living here without them - they do their job well. Life with staff is much easier than life without them.
That said, we do enjoy staff free time as it feels different (like we are on our best behaviour when there is someone who is not family with us) - we enjoy breakfast, dinner time and Sundays when we are Staff free. We still appreciate that everything has been done and we can go to school/work on monday with the house looking like chaos and know that it will be pristine by the time we get home. We also love the very occasional car trip where it's just our family, but that doesn't mean that we don't appreciate having a driver - who weaves through traffic, tries shortcuts (I ride shotgun with a map) and avoids motorbikes and gets the family around safely. We also enjoy our holidays that are also - just us, as we will never, ever take anyone with us - they don't want to spend a night away from their family, we aren't going to ask them to.
Anyway - back to my Conundrum. My Nanny is a 23 year old married mother with a two year old. She works very hard 6 days a week and I would not hesitate to name her "worker of the week," every week (and she does so without complaint).
On Saturday she asked for a loan for what is essentially one months salary so that she can buy a handphone for her 14 year old brother. He is in 9th grade and isn't going to school or sleeping at home. He has told her that he will not go to school until he a) gets a motorbike or b) a cool handphone. The culture of Indonesia is such that she sends a lot of money home to her family to look after them (they live in her village 100's of km from Jakarta and there is no old age pension, so adult kids help parents). Her brother refuses to go to school until he recieves this phone - he has missed one month so far.
So - what do I do? The issue isn't the money itself, it's that she works so hard for her money, and this 14 year old is blackmailing her with his own future. I was open mouthed in shock when she told me. She has told him that what he is asking is unfair, she has told him that he is being selfish. But he will not go to school (or sleep at home) until this phone is delivered to him. His own future..... not as important as a hand phone. He has two parents - but she is the one wanting him to complete high school.
I have told her she could have the loan (I don't want him not going to school again to be my fault). But I have asked her to tell him - if he misses one day of school - phone gone for a week. If he misses school for a week - phone gone forever....... but I seriously doubt this will implemented.
Can you think of a smarter, more useful solution? I feel terrible that she is being forced to spend a whole months salary on this. A signed contract saying that he will go to school and if he misses one week she gets the phone back, sounds like a solution, but isn't going to be monitored, so won't work - I am absolutely not buying a handphone for her little brother - I just do not want to open myself to buying it myself- the staff have 7 children and who knows how many sisters/brothers. Yes, I want to help the children of Indonesia - but this isn't what I was meaning.
Please - creative solutions are welcome, but they can't be complicated. Fire away