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On site: Figuring out the challenges of disaster response in Indonesia
Dan and Jeanne Jantzi
October 8, 2009
Editor’s Note: Dan and Jeanne Jantzi, MCC representatives in Indonesia, reflect on the needs of the people MCC will support through its Asia Disasters campaign. They witnessed some of the earthquake damage during a visit to Padang and the village of Guci (Goo-chi), Oct. 6-8. They focused especially on places where MCC’s partner, Mennonite Diakonial Service, has already begun to work. Here are some of their reflections, in their own words, as they formulate a response plan.
This morning, as we sat in a local coffee stall drinking our breakfast (coffee with whipped raw egg and sweetened condensed milk), a fellow customer asked us how long we had been in Padang. When Jimmy Harso, an Indonesian Mennonite MCC worker, explained that we were only able to be there for three days for assessment, the man asked, “How can you possibly learn enough to plan an appropriate response in just three days?” Jimmy explained that MCC is not working alone. MCC works with a partner organization that works directly with community members to plan a response.
Representatives from MCC and Mennonite Diakonial Service spent several hours discussing our earthquake response partnership. We know that the local experts together with Mennonite Diakonial Service will make an appropriate response that will empower communities to respond to their difficult situation.
One of the interesting challenges of the response will be working with two very different communities. The 282 families who live in the village of Guci are Minang people who speak the Minang language at home. They are a matriarchal society in which husbands follow their wives’ families. The community is closely knit with many family relationships between the women. The people of Guci are Muslim. The specific culture of Minang people in Guci will have an impact on how they will live together temporarily, how they will rebuild and even what emergency materials are most needed.
The second Mennonite Diakonial relief center is in the city of Padang. It will reach out to people who are of the Nias ethnic group. They speak Nias language at home. They are a patriarchal culture. The Nias people are mostly Christian or animist. They farm rice close to where they live, in the hills. In contrast, the people of Guci farm rice farther away from their village.
The needs for the Nias people will be quite different from the people from Guci. Also, the opinions of Nias volunteers who live in the city are different from the Nias people who are farmers. It’s important that the people who will receive the packets participate in planning what goes into it. Mennonite Diakonial Service will work with leaders from both communities to make sure that the responses fit the needs.
As a part of a short-term emergency response, Mennonite Diakonial Service is working on a plan to assemble relief packets for the affected families in both relief centers. They will meet with representatives of the two local communities to decide what is most needed in these packets.
Pak Joko told the story of helping to distribute Red Cross relief buckets after the tsunami and earthquakes in Nias in 2004-2005. He said that the large rolls of toilet paper given by the Red Cross provided hours of fun for the children who used them for playing soccer! After the short-term program, Mennonite Diakonial Service will work with MCC on a longer recovery response.