Vibrant Village Foundation supports Surfaid with a $31,345 one-year grant to facilitate construction of a solar-powered water pump and complementary sanitation and hygiene projects for nearly 300 people in the village of Eruparaboat, Indonesia.
The villagers of Eruparaboat have struggled to rebuild their community since they were displaced by a tsunami in October 2010. Located in the remote Mentawai Island chain of northwestern Indonesia, they already had limited access to resources, government support and health services. In their relocated area, away from the coast, up the hill in the middle of the jungle, those resources are non-existent. Vibrant Village Foundation and SurfAid are working closely with local village leadership to improve health and nutrition. A new drinking water system constructed by community labor is nearing completion.
It was cloudy in Kinumbuk, at SurfAid’s basecamp in South Pagai. We were getting ready to go to the Eruparaboat hamlet. Our agriculture officer, Nando, had scheduled an activity with Eruparaboat’s women who are interested in starting a vegetable garden.
The meeting and other activities are part of SurfAid’s Long-Term Post Tsunami Recovery Program. The vegetable garden aims to support mothers with children under five, in particular, with a source of nutritious food to reduce the number malnourished children and pregnant mothers.
Nutrition is a big concern in the area. The relocated communities have no farming activities, are very far from a local market and have not yet found new sources of income. With nutrition gardens, families do not need to spend money on vegetables and can sell the surplus. The community is keen to participate, but has to balance the tasks of reconstructing their homes with participating in activities to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. To address these competing priorities, the residents decided that the men would focus on the house construction, while the women participated in setting up the gardens.
So, there we were, ready to go. Friska, our nutrition advisor, Gonggom, our health promotion officer, and I joined Nando for the activity. We planned to work together with the community to clear the land so they could start the vegetable demonstration plot on land next to their church.
We first stopped at the house of Ibu Susan, a community health volunteer. Susan is one of the natural leaders in the hamlet, and an active health volunteer for the community health post. When we arrived, the rain was pouring down, so we chatted for a few minutes hoping for the rain to go down. Before long Ibu Susan turned to us matter-of-factly and said, “Shall we go”? We were surprised, since it was still raining so hard. “I know it is raining,” she explained, “But I have go because some of the mothers might be waiting at the arranged place. I have to keep my promise whatever the situation is, whether the mothers are there or not. If any mothers are there, we can decide together what’s best. If it’s canceled, that is fine, but at least I showed up as I promised.”
We walked for two kilometers from Ibu Susan’s house to the plot next to the church. Along the way, the mothers from houses we passed shouted out to Ibu Susan to ask if the activity was still happening. To each person, Ibu Susan replied, “Just meet in the church, and see if the rain will stop!”
With this reassurance, the mothers got ready and caught up with us at the church.
While waiting for other mothers at the site, I asked Ibu Susan how many women had joined. She said, “In the beginning, it was only 5 to 10 women, but then more and more wanted to join. At first, they thought the demonstration nutrition garden was only for a few families. But then I explained that it is for the whole community, so whoever wants to join, we are happy to work with and learn together.”
Ibu Susan recalled how Gonggom and Nando described the demonstration garden as a ‘school’ for the community to learn how to have a good productive vegetable garden. “We do know how to plant,” she explained, “But most of the time we find pests in the vegetables or have some other planting issue. We don't know whether we did wrong or right.”
Susan continued, “With this demonstration garden, we want to improve our knowledge, so that later we can practice it in our homes. Some mothers also asked about the harvest from the demonstration garden. We will use the harvest from the demonstration garden as the source of supplementary food in the community health post or for the cooking nutritious food class activity.”
By that time, other women had arrived and the rain stopped. There were about 30 women who happily joined to clear the land. They brought their own machetes and gloves. Some women also carried their children with them. After a short briefing from Ibu Susan and Nando, all of us jumped up and start clearing the bushes, stones and tree trunks!
It took less than one hour to clear the 400 square meter piece of land set aside for the demonstration garden activity. After the work, we sat together for a coffee before wrapping up to go back home. The women agreed to finalize clearing the land the next week, and to start preparing the soil the week after. “Together with SurfAid, we are sure that we can practice our vegetable garden at home, harvest good results and feed our families with nutritious food. Plus, we also can save some money,” said Ibu Susan laughing.
Ibu Luseria leads by example. Despite her advanced years, she is out there and digging with all other community members. The 2010 tsunami took their houses and livelihoods, their children, family and friends. The survivors have moved to higher ground, into the forest. Slowly they are trying to rebuild their lives again.
"Water is so important for our lives and health,” says Ibu Luseria. ”Since the tsunami we have been using rainwater for drinking and the runoff from the road for washing dishes and ourselves. Of course I want to contribute with the rest of the community to get clean water into Eruparaboat. Together with Surfaid, it is possible!"
The community of Eruparaboat hamlet (88 households and 287people) is among 13 communities that were relocated to a new area in the forest on a hill, in the aftermath of the 2010 tsunami. Since their relocation they have been eagerly waiting for the government to build new infrastructures, such as access roads and their permanent houses. This has only started in January 2014, much later than expected.
In addition to the new government homes, Vibrant Village Foundation has invested $31,345 to support the construction of a solar-powered clean-water distribution system for the village. A water committee, which was selected by the community, will play an important role to ensure the sustainability of the water system as its main function is to oversee day-to-day operations, initiate policies for all water users and manage the whole system. The committee will also keep promoting health and sanitation education for the community.
Photos by Nazaruddin, water and sanitation engineer SurfAid.
Mrs. Surtika, a 35 year-old community member from Eruparaboat explains, “Since we had to move from our village of origin, we have suffered from lack of food, no appropriate homes to live in and most the vital, we have lack of potable water. This lack of drinking water affects our children and us. That is why, we are pleased upon hearing the clean water project will be established in our hamlet. During the community meeting, we have discussed on contribution on labor and will work together to succeed the water project construction. My hope that the completion of this project will help a lot for community.”
Each school day, three to five mothers bring their own pots, pans and other cooking utensils to Keur Soce Primary School in central Senegal to help prepare a nutritious breakfast for the 360 students.
“It has completely changed the children. They have gained weight and are healthy,” says Aissatou Ndao, one of about 35 mothers who regularly show up to prepare a hot cereal made from ground beans, corn, rice, millet and peanuts — all grown locally. “Before, students sometimes came to school and did not talk much. But now, they participate more actively in class.”
While soils are fertile in this region of West Africa and most of Keur Soce’s 3,500 people rely on agriculture to survive, the area also is vulnerable to the harsh extremes of the wet and dry seasons. Poverty is high among families, and sometimes men must leave the area in search of work while their families stay home.
“Before the program, I had problems affording breakfast,” says 10-year-old Ibrahima Diagne. “But now, I don’t have them anymore.” Thanks to the breakfast program, Ibrahima says he attends school more regularly, which he likes. “School helps me to work and to succeed to help my parents.”
The Andando Foundation, an Oregon-based nonprofit agency that works mostly in Senegal to alleviate poverty through micro-development, started the Keur Soce Primary School’s nutrition program in 2013 with the help of a $75,000 one-year grant from Vibrant Village.
"We are pleased to help fund Keur Soce’s Primary School’s breakfast program,” says Georgina Bukenya Fields, Vibrant Village Foundation's International Programs director. Georgina points out how leading researchers on early childhood nutrition programs have found that schools can offer an enormous opportunity for promotion of health and nutrition for children.
Ndao adds that before Andando created the breakfast program, her own children occasionally would suffer from stomachaches and headaches. “Now they have no problems.”
Teacher Magatte Thiaw Mbaye agrees: “Previously, the students would be hungry by a certain time and unable to follow the lesson. Today, they are happy; they want to learn. They no longer fall asleep in class.”
Bineta Gueye, another teacher whose own daughter attends the school, considers the breakfast program a success on several levels. “It helps families save money. They used to have to send their students to school with 100 West African CFA Francs (about 20 cents) for breakfast.” She adds, “It has brought together the women of the village. And the students enjoy the breakfast a lot.”
After one year of operating Andando’s nutrition program and a number of infrastructure improvements, the school has seen a dramatic increase in test results from students taking the state-run elementary completion test. Over the past five years, the pass rate has averaged 45 percent, but in 2014, more than 65 percent of students passed the exam.
“The parents and school administration were very happy with the results, and we see this as a culmination of our efforts in providing better facilities, increased nutrition, more community involvement and improved attendance,” says Lewis Kiker, Andando’s executive director. “While there is still a long way to go, this is a great start and proof that things can change when attention and effort is put forth.”
Through the partnership between Andando and Keur Soce Primary School, students now receive breakfast or lunch five days a week. Lunches are prepared with fresh vegetables from the newly established school garden and rice from the World Food Program.
In addition to the breakfast program, Vibrant Village Foundation’s grant also funded the school garden, which supplies food for the nutrition program, and paid for several much-needed repairs to the school. Young men attending nearby Legacy International Vocational School rebuilt the desks, and many parents volunteered their time to help repair and paint the school.
“Vibrant Village Foundation is thrilled that Andando’s work in Keur Soce has generated exciting results and galvanized the community to lead efforts to improve the well-being of the children of Keur Soce,” Vibrant Village’s Fields says.
Andando’s Kiker adds, “The last year was a time of growth for Andando, and Vibrant Village Foundation was a huge part of that. We were able to grow the scope and reach of our programs and take steps to ensure their success and sustainability. Vibrant Village Foundation helped us guide these programs and reach a growing number of people in Keur Soce across many sectors as we walk together with the people of Senegal.”