By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
Yuliana, a mother of five, lives in far eastern Indonesia in a simple house made with bamboo, tree bark and other wood.
Like many others in her community, Yuliana’s family has a wooden rumah bulat or “roundhouse” that serves as a kitchen and a storage place for harvested crops. The outbuilding has a door but no windows, and the walls and ceiling are black from smoke.
Aside from these uses, the rumah bulat is also a birthing room. According to local tradition, mothers and their newborns need to be “baked” to become strong and healthy. Mother and child lie on a wooden platform with a fire burning underneath it — often for a month or more.
Yuliana did this for all five of her children, but now she discourages other mothers from doing the same. “It was so hot, I felt like dying, but we didn’t dare to say no to our village elders,” Yuliana recalls. “It was such a miserable time. My children fell ill easily when they were younger, coughing all the time. As I now know the harmful impacts, I want people here to stop doing this.”
Today, Yuliana is a volunteer with a health project in the village called REACH. ChildFund and UNICEF work in partnership with community-based organizations, training health volunteers to raise awareness about proper health care for expectant mothers and young children.
The rumah bulat practice contributes to a significant number of young children suffering from chronic respiratory diseases and malnutrition. “It is not easy to change people’s views, since traditional norms are held in high esteem in the community,” Yuliana notes. “From the training, I understand it is not just about what a bad experience it is, but most importantly how badly it impacts the health of the mother and the baby. I want people here to understand this too.”
As part of her efforts, Yuliana helps the local midwife facilitate counseling sessions at the village health post. She carries a first-aid kit and keeps information about basic health care with her at all times.
“I am very happy to have Yuliana as a health volunteer,” says Adel, another community member. “She visits pregnant mothers regularly and discourages the rumah bulat practices.” It’s difficult to break old habits, though.
“I still underwent this practice for my niece when she gave birth,” Adel says. “I know it is wrong, but I was terrified of going against the village elders here. Yuliana has been telling us we shouldn’t keep doing this, but we’ve been told we will be cursed and that if we don’t follow the practices we will go crazy.”
However, Adel did make some adjustments to the norm. Her niece was confined to a rumah bulat with a bamboo wall that allowed more ventilation than the customary solid wood wall, and Yuliana checked on mother and baby.
Indonesia’s government supports the abolition of this practice, having introduced a new fine of US$30 if a woman gives birth at home instead of at a health center. This is a hefty fine in Yuliana’s province, where the average income is US$17 a month. The government’s regulations and the sharing of health information among mothers are helping to reduce the harmful custom.
“I was really scared of the rumah bulat practice. I chose to stay at my uncle’s house in town so that I could give birth at the health center,” says Dorsila, who, inspired by Yuliana, has also become a community health volunteer.
By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
In Indonesia’s low-income communities, the expenses related to childbirth lead to difficult decisions. Mulyana, a trained health-care volunteer (locally known as cadres) in Pakan Sari, had a miscarriage when she was three months pregnant.
“The treatment at the hospital cost me about US$400,” she recalls. “We have enough money for food, but we couldn’t afford to pay the hospital. Thank the Lord, I received an allowance from the government and have a childbirth savings account as well. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would be able to pay.”
Many women in Mulyana’s region go to traditional birth attendants instead of the hospital, which is often better prepared if a mother or baby encounters complications during birth. Improper medical treatments have contributed to the high number of deaths of mothers and babies. Indonesia’s maternal mortality rate, 228 deaths per 100,000 births, is among the highest in Southeast Asia; its infant mortality rate is 28 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Traditional birth attendants charge much less than a hospital, but that advantage sometimes comes at the expense of current medical knowledge, properly maintained equipment and even good hygiene.
To reduce the number of maternal and infant mortalities, a government program called Desa Siaga (Alert Village) has been rolled out by the Indonesian Ministry of Health targeting rural and poor regions.
Desa Siaga programs aim to encourage self-reliant communities that actively address their own health challenges, such as maternal and infant mortality. Through this initiative, the government provides a childbirth allowance that pays all expenses incurred at a state hospital. Women must first go to their health post for prenatal appointments to receive the allowance.
In Pakan Sari, community members started a forum to discuss needs and healthy practices surrounding childbirth and pregnancy. Everyone in the community — husbands, neighbors, community leaders, midwives and health cadres — has a role to play in promoting birth preparedness. This participatory approach is aimed at raising awareness that pregnancy should not be a private concern affecting women only.
Supporting this initiative, ChildFund works with its local partner organization, Warga Upadaya, strengthening the health cadres’ capacity to assist midwives in the community. Health cadres attended training on monitoring of pregnant mothers, breast feeding, nutrition for children from birth to age 5, household economy management and community organization.
Each pregnant woman’s health status and due date is recorded, as well as who will assist with transportation or give blood if it’s needed. The record also shows the family’s financial resources, aside from the government allowance.
“We have endorsed the rollout of the Desa Siaga program in our neighborhood for the last year,” says Sigit Murjati, a community leader. “We have developed a community savings system to prepare for the costs of childbirth.”
These financial contributions are used to offset the costs of transportation and medical care during and after childbirth.
When a state hospital is full, and the mother is then referred to a private hospital, the savings play a critical role since the government pays only for a stay at a state facility.
With the community preparedness system in place and health cadres all trained, Pakan Sari can better meet the needs of mothers and newborns. At the launch of the Desa Siaga program on May 15, 99 health cadres from 22 health centers came to Pakan Sari, as well as the sub-district head.
“This launching of Desa Siaga by the sub-district head is recognition from the government to the health cadres and the entire community,” says Sri Dwi Lestari, a community leader who works for the local health department. “This makes the community feel that they own the program, since the health cadres are all community volunteers. If the community doesn’t feel like they own the program, the program would not run so well.”
By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
Dina, a sixth-grader in Lampung, Indonesia, loves her school now. “It looks clean and nice,” she explains. “It used to be dirty and was full of trash. The walls were cracking everywhere, and we didn’t have many trees either. I feel the teachers care more about the school and us too now. When they see us littering, they remind us not to do so. I even helped clean the school by picking up trash.”
After undergoing renovations and program changes with the help of ChildFund and its local partner, LPMAS, Karangsari 2 Elementary School earned the child-friendly school designation. The project, which started last September, benefits 216 students and 16 teachers.
The child-friendly school model aims to help schools become safe, healthy and protective environments for children; eliminates gender stereotypes; and encourages child participation in all aspects of school life. Teachers attended a workshop to learn more about the model and how to integrate it into their instructional approach.
“I love children and want to dedicate my life to them,” says Lukiati, the school’s principal. “When children feel happy and secure in school, I feel really happy. I know now that a school must further the interest and strengths of the child, not just teach.
“When we used to call children to come to us, they used to run away. That is because we were just delivering lessons,” she adds. Now, children come to us, even when we don’t call them and happily greet us with Assalamualaikum (Peace be upon you). I learned that when we teach children, we need to do it from our heart.”
As a result of the workshops, Lukiati and the teachers are now more aware of the importance of a creating a conducive learning environment for children. They now understand that children are influenced by what happens inside as well as outside the classroom.
“A child-friendly school benefits both children and teachers alike. This is the first time I have felt that I am really a teacher,” says Kartiyah, a sixth-grade teacher. “I used to just teach the children in class and then go home. Now, I feel the school is really ours — the children and the teachers.”
With the support of ChildFund, Lukiati submitted a proposal to Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and received a grant to renovate the school. The walls had cracks, and the space near the school had been used as a garbage dump for years. Dramatic changes were needed.
With the help of the community, a transformation began. Twelve truckloads of garbage were removed from the backyard, and 6,000 baby catfish from the Indonesian Food Security Agency were released into the pond. The community agreed to feed the fish and use the funds from their sale to fund further improvements in the school. The school received 1,500 bamboo seeds from the Pringsewu Environmental Agency and also created a vegetable garden. Proceeds from selling vegetables enable the school to purchase educational materials and organize excursions for the children.
“The school looks so clean, and I like how we display our writings or drawings on the wall now,” says Zainal, a fifth-grader.
Through the child-friendly school model, ChildFund and its partners have built strong partnerships with the government and community. More improvements to Karangsari 2 are still needed to ensure a quality education for students. However, the local government has stated its commitment to continue supporting the school.
“We will continue to support this initiative, since education is essential to child development,” says Sujadi Saddat, the district’s head. “With a solid partnership among ChildFund, the community and local government, we can promote a safe, healthy and protective environment that enables children to achieve their full potential.”
In Indonesia’s Central Southern Timor region, families have long lacked access to good health care, and 6 percent of children die before the age of 5. ChildFund and UNICEF are working to provide health care services to this population.
By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
All over the world, children’s hands get dirty while they’re playing. But not everyone has access to soap and running water. In Indonesia, one of the Early Childhood Development centers supported by ChildFund has tackled the problem of cleanliness without easy access to fresh water.
“Children always enjoy playing here,” says Sriyatun, a tutor who works at the Early Childhood Development center in Kulonprogo, Central Java. “They play with the blocks, crayons, water and other local materials such as corn seed and bamboo.
“Their hands, however, soon become dirty,” she adds. “Children need to wash their hands before they eat. Unfortunately, we don’t have the facility. We usually brought the children to the mosque next to our ECD center to wash their hands.”
Not wanting to prolong this situation, Sriyatun and the other tutors recently hand-built a “water facility” for the children in the front yard of the center. The system consists of clay water pots with spigots that were contributed by a parent. Teachers and parents still must bring the water from elsewhere, but the clay pots keep the water fresh and allow easy, controlled dispensing.
“It isn’t healthy to wash your hands using water from a bucket, as the water gets dirtier the more people use it,” Sriyatun says. “Also, as we should always use running water and soap when we wash our hands to prevent illnesseses such as diarrhea, we thought this idea would work.”
A growing awareness of the importance of handwashing is one result of ChildFund’s efforts to build integrated community-based health services.
“We want parents and children to be more aware of the importance of handwashing at the critical times of day, for example, before eating and after using the restroom,” Sriyatun notes. “It’s also important to wash your hands before feeding a child and after cleaning a child’s bottom and, of course, before preparing food and after touching animals.”
Today, people in the community are more aware of the importance of hygiene than they were in earlier generations, Sriyatun says. “They even practice handwashing at their home now, which they didn’t use to do.”
According to one mother, Ngatini, whose 3-year-old son is enrolled in the ECD program, “If we ask them to wash their hands, they will do it, but it can sometimes be a challenge. If, on the other hand, the teacher asks them to wash their hands, children comply more easily and even do it at home without being asked to.”
Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.
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.