Only about 1 in 5 children in Indonesia have access to a pre-primary education program. In the remote highlands of Central Java, ChildFund is working hand in hand with communities to refurbish Early Childhood Development centers and also train teachers and parents to nourish children in their critical early years of development.
By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
Anastasia, a 16-year-old from the Indonesian island of Flores had the honor of being the youngest keynote speaker at two events aimed at helping communities be better prepared for natural disasters. Last week, Anastasia attended the 2012 International Day for Disaster Reduction and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Day for Disaster Management in Bangkok.
She was asked to participate at the events, not only because of her age, but also because of her tenacious work to increase children’s awareness of the hazards of natural disasters. “I live in a very vulnerable area, where there are many hazards: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions,” she says. “Here, as in most other places, children are the most vulnerable group when these natural disasters take place. Children need to be educated to understand the hazards and respond to the risks.”
Anastasia, who has been sponsored through ChildFund since she was 8 years old, has been involved in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) trainings for the last two years. During this time, she has completed three DRR courses and basic first aid.
In 2010, Anastasia’s interests led her to join the Youth Forum for DRR in Flores. She became a youth facilitator and coordinated the youth group’s participation in a national tsunami drill, an exercise led by the National Disaster Management Agency. This experience and her previous trainings prepared Anastasia well for her speech in Bangkok.
“ChildFund trained me well and really supported me in learning about DRR along with other youth in Flores. I know what to do in emergency situations and can spread that knowledge to people around me,” she says.
“The greatest benefit in joining this conference is that I’ve been able to meet many people who work in DRR in other ASEAN countries. They have all increased my understanding of DRR.”
As the keynote, Anastasia spoke about her experiences in helping children and youth understand the hazards of natural disasters. She discussed the challenges of developing action plans in schools and participated in a focus group discussion on encouraging youth (particularly girls) to become more involved in DRR activities in their neighborhoods.
One of Anastasia’s proudest moments was reading the “Women’s Declaration” statement. In fact, her efforts to include the issues of gender and youth in DRR conversations earned an award by ASEAN and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
“I am very happy. I am so proud and amazed, that I can be here to meet, speak and discuss with professionals who have long experiences in disaster risk reduction,” she says. “In media interviews, I can show that I can do something to aid DRR efforts in Indonesia.”
Anastasia is currently preparing for her final school exams. In her free time, she and her friends conduct capacity and vulnerability analyses to help youth develop action plans in preparation for natural disasters.
“My hope is that DRR training can start at Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers so that children receive the training they need and will know what to do and not panic when a crisis hits.”
Currently, ChildFund Indonesia is working to add disaster risk reduction training as a component of the ECD program. With these trainings, young children and their mothers will have greater awareness and knowledge of ways to cope in the event of a disaster and will be more empowered to bring positive change to their communities – as Anastasia is doing in Flores.
Reporting by Dhina Mutiara, ChildFund Indonesia
My name is Dwi. Do you want to know more about me? I am 10 years old. I live in a village in Banyumas, Central Java, Indonesia.
Every morning I go to school at 7 a.m. My mother walks me to school every day without fail. The school is not too far from my house. Usually it will take 15 to 20 minutes to walk. There are around 400 students in my public school. I am in fifth grade.
This is my classroom and my friends. Science is my favorite subject. If you notice, there are a lot of materials hanging on the wall. Those are our creations. Our teachers always inspire us to be creative in class.
I go home around 1 p.m. As soon as I get home, I feed my pets. My pet is neither a dog nor a cat; they are uncommon here. I have five chicks. My family can sell them at the traditional market once they are big enough. Once I am done with that, I will help my mother to do home chores or play soccer with my friends.
I also love music. That is why I joined Karawitan extracurricular activity on Sundays. It is a traditional Indonesian music ensemble from Java. I play a traditional drum called kendang. My father is a Karawitan musician. He inspired me a lot in music. ChildFund helps my school, providing the extracurricular activity so that we can keep the traditional music legacy.
Reporting by ChildFund The Gambia and ChildFund Indonesia
As ChildFund works around the globe to provide for the basic needs of children, a fundamental component of our efforts to reduce poverty and save lives is the provision of clean water and sanitation. To mark World Water Day, we spotlight two projects that are improving water access for children and families.
Safe Drinking Water in The Gambia
In 2011, ChildFund The Gambia, with support from ChildFund Deutschland and the German government, began working with the Ding Ding Bantaba Federation and Eastern Foni Federation to provide fresh water to 12 communities. The ongoing project is providing clean and safe drinking water from protected wells for about 22,400 people, the majority of whom are women and children.
Before this project began, women and young children would walk for more than 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) to fetch water from open wells that were often polluted. With the construction of new wells, that walk for water is reduced to 1 kilometer, or even a few meters in some cases. By the time the project concludes, more than 30,000 families will have access to clean water.
As a result of having reliable sources of fresh water, health and hygiene are improving within the communities. Another outcome is reduced occurrences of diarrhea diseases and malaria infections that hit hard for children under the age of five.
Working with the two community federations, ChildFund is conducting management and finance trainings for the communities’ Water and Village Development Committees. “The idea is to equip local residents with the project management and financial skills necessary to effectively maintain and sustain the water facilities and other development projects,” says Eustace Casselle, ChildFund national director in The Gambia.
Opening Access to Clean Water in Indonesia
Prior to 2007, Cikaret village in West Java, Indonesia, did not have access to clean water. The 1,500 residents collected water from wells, irrigation gutters and rivers. During the rainy season, dengue fever, diarrheal diseases and skin infections were common. To have clean water, families had to buy it.
Five years ago, ChildFund Indonesia, working with the local government, teamed with a local partner and community members to build a half-mile pipeline to a nearby mountain source, providing 400 people with access to clean water. The local government then constructed a water tower near the village, growing the number of people served to 1,200.
“The clean water means a lot for the community. Now, there are no more skin infections happening around the community. Besides that, it also lowers our monthly expense,” said Yusuf, 36, a father of three children. “After the water pipes were built and we started to see the benefits, the community started to be closer. We now are aware that by working together, we can put an end to any problems in our community.”
Reporting by Dhina Mutiara, ChildFund Indonesia, and Bertho Pitono, ChildFund’s partner in Central Java
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.
My name is Estu. I am 14 years old. I live with both of my parents in a hilly area called Giripurwo village in Central Java, Indonesia. I live in a remote area that is really hard to reach by any vehicle. That is why people in my village have to walk to go in and out of the village. I am one of them.
Currently, I am studying on second level at Islamic Public Junior High School, which is located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from my house. Every morning, my friends and I will walk approximately one and a half hours to reach the school. We usually go out at 5:30 a.m., because my school starts at 7 a.m. I don’t want to be tardy.
The first 3 kilometers, we have to walk through the hilly part of the area. This part is really hard to go through, and it gets worse in rainy season. My friends and I usually take a 5-minute break from our long walk and enjoy the beautiful view from the mountaintop. The last 1 kilometer is easier to get through because it is not as hilly, and there is a road that leads to my school.
If you ask me whether I’m tired or not, of course I’m tired. But that route is the shortest route to get to my school. I have been doing it all of my life, so I am used to it. I mostly forget how far my school is because I always go to school with my friends. We tell stories and pranks to keep ourselves entertained along the long walk.
One day I want to be a doctor and make my parents happy. Those are the reasons why I stay in school. I hope I can have a scholarship to be a doctor.
My school ends at 1:30 p.m., and I have to go through the same route to get home.
Once I get to my house, I help my parents. I will help my mother wash the dishes. After that, I will help my father feed our livestock. We have two goats at our house. In the afternoon, I will go to the hilly forest to cut some grass and bring the grass home for my goats.
On weekends, I will go to the art center that ChildFund supports not far from my house, where I learn how to dance, play some music and meet my friends from other villages.
I enjoy all of my daily routine, even though it is tiring. I have learned how to be grateful and responsible for everything that I have.
Guest post by Jacqui Ooi, Senior Communications Officer, ChildFund Australia
Earlier this month, I met a really lovely guy in a really grim Jakarta slum. Ahmad is 20 years old and lives in one of Jakarta’s toughest neighbourhoods. Located near the airport with planes flying low and loud overhead, the area is a mess of garbage, cramped alleyways and broken, makeshift houses. The roads leading in are so narrow that two cars can barely pass.
Ahmad was a sponsored child until last year when he finished his schooling. Where he comes from, that in itself is a massive achievement. Most kids in Ahmad’s neighbourhood drop out of school at 16, if not before. While primary and junior high school in Indonesia are free, the fees for senior high school put it out of reach for many.
Friendly and easy-going, Ahmad is now working as an “office boy” – sweeping and mopping floors, making drinks and buying food for the employees. I have to admit, it doesn’t sound like much at first. Ahmad himself tells me: “It’s not my ideal job but I’ll take it.” Yet after discovering more about life for teens in the Jakarta slums I’ve realised that Ahmad is on a much better path than most.
While young people in Australia can generally take education and jobs for granted, it’s certainly not the case for their peers in Jakarta’s poor neighbourhoods. By the age of 16, many of the kids have dropped out of school and are working underage in factories. Others turn to drugs or prostitution.
Ahmad tells me: “It’s hard living in Jakarta. There are lots of issues like drugs and free sex (sex outside of marriage). For me, it’s a problem seeing kids in my neighbourhood who tend to just hang out, drinking.”
Being sponsored and involved with ChildFund kept Ahmad in school and out of trouble. “My sponsor helped me with my school fees,” he says. “At the start of each new school year, I also got books.”
Ahmad has also attended ChildFund-supported trainings about drug education, HIV prevention and public speaking. He says: “The training helped with my confidence. I know how to mix with the right people and pick good friends. I live in an area with drugs, so I make sure I hang out with good people.”
At the end of our conversation, Ahmad mentions he loves interacting with kids and I suggest maybe he could study to become a teacher. “Maybe,” he ponders, but I’m later told teachers don’t earn much. His “office boy” wage of $115 per month would be about the same.
For now Ahmad is content to be employed and paying off his moped, which he uses to weave his way to work in Jakarta’s infamous traffic.
“I am happy because I have friends and a supportive family,” he says. “But I hope one day that I will have a better job and continue my studies.”
by Martin Hayes, ChildFund Child Protection Specialist
Reporting from Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Relative calm has been restored to the towns and villages surrounding Mount Merapi. Evacuees are leaving internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and returning home. In many cases, parents are leaving their children with families and friends in the camps so that they can begin cleaning their homes and clearing the debris.
I traveled to two of the villages about 4 kilometers (2 miles) south of the volcano. The roads were covered with an inch of gray powdery ash. In some spots, rain water has combined with the ash to solidify like concrete. Most village residents are farmers. They depend on the rice and vegetables that they grow. The hardened ash has caused many of the crops to die. For now these farmers are living on handouts delivered to the village by volunteers.
I spoke with a few villagers who have returned home. One young mother explained to me, “We don’t have seeds for next season…we’re worried about what we’ll do.” In this part of Indonesia, farmers plant regularly and are able to harvest every few months. They sell part of their harvest and consume the rest. Their subsistence is a delicate balance contingent on the cyclical harvests.
Despite the crop problem, residents are happy to be home. I spoke with a few young children about their experiences over the past few weeks. One 10-year-old girl named Wanyu explained the events immediately after the volcanic eruption. “I felt so scared… I cried. All the lights went out. We looked at the mountain and we saw red lights coming from the top.”
Wanyu fled with her parents to a shelter in the nearest town about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away. “I didn’t like the shelter because it was too hot.” But she explained that she did like meeting new children living at the shelter and learning new traditional games with them. Nonetheless, she’s glad to be back home and eager to return to her fourth-grade classroom. However, the school has not reopened. The students are helping some of the teachers who have returned to clean the school.
Wanyu’s mother is also happy to be home. However, she is noticeably anxious. “I’m worried about Merapi erupting again. I’m also worried about our future as all our vegetables have died.”
by Martin Hayes, ChildFund Child Protection Specialist
Reporting from the field
Natural disasters have become a part of life for Indonesians. Recurring earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions have caused hundreds of thousands of casualties and internally displaced people during the last five years. Despite this precarious situation, Indonesians are incredibly resilient and are quick to try to resume their lives shortly after a disaster.
On Oct. 26 an active volcano in Central Java erupted causing thick ash to fall within a 30- km (18-mile) radius, resulting in 280,000 residents evacuating to government-run shelters.
ChildFund mounted an immediate response to assist affected communities, some of which have sponsored children. Our initial response was to search for and help sponsored children and their families to relocate safely. As families began arriving in shelters, ChildFund staff provided basic needs. We also have established centers for children that provide them with caring support as well as learning and recreational activities.
I arrived on Nov. 19 to assist ChildFund Indonesia’s Emergency Response Team in strengthening their activities and preparing for medium- and longer-term program plans. Since arriving I’ve visited some of the sites where displaced families are living.
At one of the larger camps, thousands of people are occupying a stadium in Sleman District. Families are living on mats on the floor, surrounded by the few possessions that they’ve managed to bring with them. ChildFund has claimed some space in one of the first-floor hallways to set up a child-centered space with games and art supplies, providing youngsters a refuge from the crowded stadium.
“About 200 children come to the center each day to play, draw and learn to read,” ChildFund’s project assistant Yusnita Ike tells me. “These children stay at the center for most of the day and enjoy the space to play with others their age.”
Structured activities help restore a sense of normalcy for children, which, in turn, helps relieve the enormous stress that they’ve experienced. “Through teaching literacy skills,” Yusita says, “we’ve found that some children age 7 to 11 can’t read. After speaking with their parents we’ve found that they were not attending school. This may be the first opportunity for them to acquire literacy skills.”
I later speak with a few young children at the center. Nisa won a prize for a drawing contest held earlier that day. She is 8 years old and loves to dance and to learn English. Nisa enjoys coming to the center. However, she tells me, “I miss home because I miss my friends and going to school.”
Like many others, Nisa also dislikes the lack of privacy at the stadium. Families sleep in the open hallways side by side with many others. Women and girls in particular are bothered by the lack of privacy that makes going to the toilet or bathing problematic.
I also spoke with Frenqui, who is 10. Frenqui was a little disappointed that he didn’t win the drawing contest, but says he will continue to draw. He likes drawing mountains. When asked “why mountains?” he replies: “Because they are easy to draw.” He used to draw red fire on the top of the mountains. But now he draws with blue markers on the top “because the volcano has cooled down.” Frenqui saw the lava the night his family fled from their home. “It was very scary,” he says. His family ran with just their clothes.
Frenqui likes coming to the child-centered space to play games. He’s learning to read. Yet, he misses home. He tells me that it’s hot in the stadium and he misses his friends who have likely fled to other camps. He also misses going to school and taking baths.
ChildFund is preparing to help displaced families to return home safely and to resume their lives. To help ChildFund respond to the Mt. Merapi disaster, please consider a donation to the ChildAlert Emergency Fund.
by Julien Anseau, ChildFund Asia Regional Communications Manager
Reporting from the field
Each of the 963 ChildFund-sponsored children in Magelang and Boyolali districts have been found staying in evacuation camps or with relatives. All are in good health, although some are complaining of eye irritation caused from ash and sand rain.
“We worked with our local partners and an experienced team of volunteers to locate the children,” says Kuntum, a ChildFund staff member. “We visited camps in Magelang and Boyolali to find them. We spoke to village leaders, family members and neighbors to find out if they knew where the children were staying. Phone connection has been limited in remote areas following the first eruption so we visited every camp on a daily basis.”
Approximately 280,000 people have been forced to leave their homes for temporary evacuation shelters, following Mount Merapi’s most violent eruption in 140 years. Conditions in most of the camps are cramped with poor sanitary conditions.
In emergency situations, children need a safe space in which to play and reestablish a sense of normalcy. ChildFund is opening child-centered spaces to provide educational and recreational activities for children.
“Children take part in drawing, singing, dancing, playing and storytelling, which allow emotional expression,” says Susana, a ChildFund staff member in Indonesia. In our child-centered space in Gunungpring camp we are exhibiting children’s drawings. Children are happy about this, and we hope it helps restore their confidence.”
Tegar, 10 years old, says, “I drew a picture of a volcano because I still remember what happened. My house was destroyed. I am very afraid.”
Susana explains that the vast majority of children initially drew volcanoes, but in more recent days, they are drawing the crater, without the volcanic eruption. “Some of the girls are drawing flowers. This is an important sign in post-trauma healing. Child-centered spaces help in this respect.”
In Deyangan camp, 9-year-old Arif says he likes the child-centered space. “For some time I can forget about what has happened. But when I go back to my parents sitting there in the camp, I only think about the eruption. I am scared at night.”
Although children may be living in evacuee camps, they still have a right to education, says Hurmiyati, a teacher in one of ChildFund’s child-centered spaces. “They will sit a national examination in May next year; they can’t fall behind.”
ChildFund is partnering with psychologists who, by interacting with children in the child-centered spaces, can better understand the trauma children are going through. Children have told ChildFund staff that they are afraid because they have had to leave their village and make new friends.
In Maguwo camp, the largest camp where more than 20,000 people have taken refuge, the popular child-centered space is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is well stocked with books and toys. Children come to spend some time to forget about their painful experience, under the supervision of trained volunteers.
ChildFund is providing age-appropriate activities for younger children, but there is a need for materials for older children. Sugeng, a volunteer, says, “There is nothing for teenagers to do in the camp. They are bored and don’t know how long they are going to be here.”
Sugeng is also concerned that the children have a balanced diet. Children eat rice or noodles every day. They need fruit and vegetables. So ChildFund staff and volunteers are involving children in the activity of making a fruit salad, and then partaking.
Overcrowding is a problem in the child-centered spaces. In Gunungpring, more than 100 children are attending activities during the course of the day, but the room is too small to accommodate everyone. More space is needed.
With your support, ChildFund will be able to open additional child-centered spaces for the children whose families have fled the volcano. Thank you for considering a donation to the ChildAlert Emergency Fund to help improve conditions for children in Indonesia.
by Julien Anseau, ChildFund Asia Regional Communications Manager
Reporting from the field
Continued eruptions of the Mt. Merapi volcano in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, during the last two weeks has forced 280,000 people into temporary shelters at schools, village halls and makeshift camps. Indonesia’s president has declared the situation a national disaster.
Camps are overcrowded, with a reported combined capacity of only 40,000.
Yet in the districts of Magelang and Boyolali alone, where ChildFund is focusing its emergency response efforts, displaced persons total more than 150,000.
Children and parents have told ChildFund staff that sanitary conditions in the camps are poor. ChildFund is distributing some 1,250 hygiene kits (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and diapers) to evacuated families staying in shelters. We are also providing food for breastfeeding mothers as well as food, clothing, mattresses and blankets.
Three-year-old David, one of ChildFund’s sponsored children, is staying in Deyangan camp in the Magelang district with his family. His mother, Wanti, says that her family’s village is located only 5 km (3.1 miles) from the mountain’s peak. “We want to go home, but we don’t know when that will be. I don’t know what state our house will be in when we return. My husband sometimes ventures up Merapi’s slopes to check on our cattle and goats, but I tell him it’s probably best not to check on the house or he will cry.”
People living on Merapi’s slopes depend on cattle for their livelihoods. Thus, many evacuees, stressed over the safety of their livestock, are entering the restricted zone to check on their cattle, goats, ducks and chickens. In an effort to prevent residents from returning to their homes to feed livestock, volunteers and military personnel have evacuated animals within a 20 kilometer radius of Merapi’s peak.
“We want our normal life back,” Wanti says. “But I am worried about the future. Our paddy fields have been left unattended. Our crops are ruined.”
Children also are in shock and confused. The loss of educational materials and toys, separation from home and play areas and a general lack of security is traumatic. Schools in affected areas remain closed and a lack of activities for children in the camps is causing children to be restless, anxious and noncommunicative.
As parents worry about their livelihood and the potential loss of property and livestock, they are often unable to adequately provide the care and attention needed by children.
ChildFund is establishing child-centered spaces where children can engage in normalizing activities such as drawing, singing, dancing and storytelling to enable emotional expression.
“Child-centered spaces provide protection and psychosocial support for children who have been affected by emergencies. They also provide a safe, physical space for children to gather in an unstable environment,” says Sharon Thangadurai, ChildFund national director in Indonesia.
Yuni, 12, is staying at Deyangan camp in Magelang. “I have to help my mom with washing clothes and taking care of my younger brother,” she says. She is happy to have the opportunity to play with other children at the child-centered space. “I enjoy it here. It helps me to be strong because I want to be strong for my mom.”
Additional child-centered spaces are urgently needed. To help ChildFund respond to the Mt. Merapi disaster, please consider a donation to the ChildAlert Emergency Fund.