Living and working in Indonesia, a region that is regularly hit by earthquakes, I am glad to say that SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia has experience in responding such disasters.
For example after the devastating 2004 earthquake
with its epicentre off the west coast of the Indonesian Island Sumatra SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia responded the situation by building three villages based on a very good coordination with local people and government. That tremor occurred with an extremely high magnitude which triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean. SOS Children‘s Villages is still working there now even some other organisations have left.
Another example is the eruption of a volcano that erupted at Yogyakarta Special Province in Java Island where hundreds of families lost their home. Most of them are farmers. SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia responded by distributing goods addressing the basic needs of the children and families. I was there to coordinate support and I worked with local volunteers.
On November 8, 2013 another natural disaster took place. Super typhoon Haiyan
, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, hit the island country. Yolanda was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. This deadly typhoon on record devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines where it killed at least 6,300 people. Confronted with this emergency situation the International Director of Asia, Ms Shubha, called the emergency experienced National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia, Gregor Nitihardjo to help in responding this situation. So Gregor went to SOS Tacloban together with Banteng Patria, the HROD Director SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia. Banteng also had experiences to build villages after a Tsunami. Tacloban was one of our villages that were affected by the typhoon. First they moved all children to SOS Calbayog, the nearest village to Tacloban because of the chaos situation. In those days many robberies happened because people were in need for food to survive. A week after their departure Banteng then called me and asked me to assist also.
So I went to Tacloban with some information given by Banteng. He told me for example that one of my responsibilities was to build more child-care spaces (CCS) based on the children’s needs in coordination with local government. I brought some solar lamps because there was no electricity. I thought that I can do my best even I did not really know the real situation.
When I arrived in Tacloban, I started to work and mapped the situation, with the assistance of local volunteers and Family Strengthening Programme (FSP) co-workers who already knew the real situation. We also worked in partnership with other organisations in clustering, so we could work hand in hand to reduce overlap.
One day at morning I walked to a place where we planned to start a new CCS in an empty school together with family strengthening co-workers. At that time there were no school activities and some schools were used as evacuation centre. We had some discussions about our activities with the local authorities there and they recommended us to use this school. When we looked around we found none but suddenly we heard a baby crying. We then carefully looked for the voice. Finally we found a baby in a room. She was lying in a school table in very poor condition. There were many flies around her because her head was scalded. Her clothes were wet because her food that was placed near to her ran over her. We tried to find someone who took care of this baby, but nobody was there.
We decided to save the baby first. Considering there was an issue about child trafficking when the disaster happened, meaning some children who were separated from their families became vulnerable. Therefore, we first talked to the local authorities about the baby and her condition and then we brought her to the SOS Children’s Village Tacloban. SOS Children’s Villages closely works together with the Social and Welfare Department also In the Philippines. Every child admitted to SOS should be admitted by the decision of this department.
When we arrived at the village, we showered the baby and gave some medications to her skin. In the afternoon her father came to SOS and asked to give him back his daughter. I asked the local authorities to involve themselves in this situation. The baby’s father explained that he had to go to work and to look for money. He got a job from a foundation that provided money for cleaning the environment. So we agreed to give the baby back to her father and we asked him to really take care of her. We gave him some baby food and needed items. After that we had no opportunity to meet the girl again because the father then decided to move to other place. We heard from the local authorities that the baby was in good condition and that the father and his family took care of her.
This condition taught me one thing: Do everything NOW. It made me realize to not delay important actions. Do it NOW because the children cannot wait for us. In every condition we should consider this as a value and do our best to the best interest of the child.