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2006 • Alfred Builds Eight Houses In Tsunami Area, Nadine Hoover

Alfred residents sent $3,700 through the Alfred Quaker Meeting for housing assistance. These were some of the only housing funds to reach the coastline of East Aceh. Eight homes were rebuilt in the Village of Meunasah Blang. Homeowners rebuilt another nine homes, lost or heavily damaged in this village. Delivering such funds is not easy. Although 100 percent of our funds reached the people directly, many people put a great deal of work in to ensure this happened appropriately.

The Village of Meunasah Blang

Meunasah Blang is an Indonesian village in the middle of the coastline of East Aceh where approximately 13,500 people were displaced by the tsunami. Of the 697 residents of Meunasah Blang, 103 are day-laboring fishermen and 82 own fish farms. The village has 80 hectares planted to rice, but only once a year because they are still dependent on rain rather than irrigation.

Meunasah Blang is also at the heart of the former war in Aceh. Prior to the tsunami only 80 percent of their 150 hectares of fish farming fields were in operation because the fields were destroyed in the armed conflict.

In Meunasah Blang, only one child died in the tsunami. While 17 families lost their homes, nearly all of the 158 families lost their economic livelihoods—primarily fishing equipment, fish farms, and salt farms. The economic disruption was severe since living in a war restricts transportation. A Peace Accord was signed eight months after the tsunami, but the effects of armed conflict and tsunami combined to amplify the suffering of these villagers.

Their primary health problem is sanitation. Only ten households have access to clean drinking water through the water utility. The other 148 families use rain water or beg. They are primarily poor, illiterate and malnourished.

For this reason we felt they were the greatest in need of assistance, yet they are also the hardest to help because they are a rough people who have a severe distrust of outsiders and an extremely low developmental functioning.

When escorting these funds there, I remembered growing up in Canaseraga, how as teenagers we thought foreigners came from Arkport! Few other international relief workers understand how closed  these villages are, but I felt right at home.

The Society for Health, Education, Environment and Peace (SHEEP)

Alfred’s housing funds were entrusted to the staff of Society for Health, Education, Environment and Peace (SHEEP), a national relief organization primarily motivated by Christian charity. They have an office on the coast of East Aceh to assist 22 villages using nine local Islamic and one or two Javanese Christian relief workers and a mobile medical clinic including a Javanese doctor and local staff. The mixing of religious backgrounds is very new for this heavily isolated Islamic community.

SHEEP, working with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faced numerous obstacles in actually delivering this housing assistance. The villagers believed that if assistance goes to some of them then it must go to all of them. One of the local NGOs had tried to give rice to the 17 households who lost their homes and the villagers were very angry because they are all victims of the tsunami through lost livelihoods and were all suffering.

SHEEP began organizing the villagers. They set up a salt farmers’ working group with 20 members who work together on marketing their product and a literacy working group especially for young adults or young families, which currently has ten participants.

The mobile medical clinic has been well received because it serves everyone. They particularly treat asthma, osteoarthritis, and diareah. SHEEP has repaired the irrigation system over five kilometers and provided seed capital for two fish vendors and equipment and seed capital for salt farmers.

Through a process of trust building with villagers, five priorities emerged: irrigate fish farms, repair 150 hectares of fish farming fields, repair salt farming fields and equipment for 18 salt farmers, replace fishing nets lost in the tsunami, and reconstruct 17 homes lost in the tsunami.

Housing Reconstruction

Construction activities didn’t get underway until September 2005 following extensive discussions with villagers and their leadership. Once the villagers understood why only some people would be able to receive housing support, discussions were held over four months to determine priorities for housing rehabilitation with villagers personally, in small groups, and with village government. Of the 17 houses lost, two had not had any work at all, six had been rebuilt although not completely and nine had already been rehabilitated by their owners.

The decision was made together to assist construction of two new houses with the refurbishing of land around these houses and six houses that had already partially rehabilitated by the owners, but stopped in the process when the resources had run out.

The agreement was made between the villagers and SHEEP on what consistuted “completion” and what materials would be needed. In November 2005, administrators were selected to be responsible for planning. purchasing and hiring. This adminstration was selected by the owner of the house being built and a village government representive. Each house was constructed by a worker from SHEEP while the owner of the house provided food and an assistant worker. Materials were purchased in mid December 2005 by the administration selected.

Much time was needed to build an awareness among the villagers to determine a priority on who should be assisted. Villagers thought there was a “housing assistance packet,” so they thought they each should get the same packet. If not, they assumed SHEEP was taking the difference. They also assumed that we were like contractors getting a profit and they wanted their cut too.

It was also hard to find standard quality (legal) wood and local administration groups did not have experience in planning construction jobs like these.

Still, the decision to build eight houses was the outcome of a community decision, therefore all the villagers accepted the decision. The administration was selected from the family for whom the houses were being built, therefore the enthusiasm was high. Determination of the style and design of the house, listing of materials needed and purchasing was all done by the administration; the SHEEP staff only provided a lead carpenter and supervision. Control was done by the villagers, primarily the home owners’ themselves.

By April 2006 the construction was  80 percent complete. A bit more work on a few walls and a roof has now seen all the houses complete.

The houses were not built where they were before the tsunami, but were moved about 800 to 1,000 meters away from the shore. Seven of the houses were placed on land that was owned by the collectives of their families and one was placed on land that required some assistance purchase.

The eight houses are all now occupied by eight familes consisting of 31 family members. Six of the houses were built with thatched roofs, coconut wood walls with wooden floors and two with wooden floors and metal roofs.

The people who helped deliver these funds learned a lot. It took a long time to raise the awareness of the villagers so that they were willing to help those most in need. The villagers are very proud because they were entrusted to do the work for themselves, which is highly unusual in this setting.

To at least meet the minimum housing needs of this community, SHEEP raised an additional $1,145 to add to the $3,700 raised in the Village of Alfred. Completing basic housing cost $4,845.59 or fifty one million Indonesian rupiah.  TWood, triplex, roofing metal cost $2,421.48; “umpak” cost $104.32; nails$127.79; milling and land $909.07; materials transport $304.51; carpenters $950.12; and tools $28.30.

Earthquake in Yogjakarta Destroys Art District

The earthquake last week that struck Yogyakarta, fondly known as Jogja, Indonesia demolished SHEEP’s central office. Alfred resident and AU graduate, Fenna Mandolang, of West University Street was in Jogja at the time, but was safely evacuated. This earthquake registered 6.2 on the Richter Scale. A quake of this magnitude makes one a bit nauseous for several days. She is feeling better and getting back to her research as a Fulbright Scholar studying influences on contemporary Indonesian art.

Jogja is the art capital of Indonesia. The earthquake struck the district where most of the artists live and art galleries and studios operate. Fenna has been working primarily with artists whose work focuses on personal or cultural identity.

Alfred Friends Meeting is accepting funds for “Jogja relief” through June 29th when Nadine Hoover will depart for Indonesia and deliver the funds to Fenna Mandolang to share as she sees fit among the artists who have lost homes and studios. If the funds are substantial, SHEEP will assist in administering these funds as they did with the housing funds sent to Aceh.

Nadine will travel to Indonesia for the month of July. Her focus will remain on Aceh. Alfred University video instructor, Pamela Hawkins, will accompany her to document the work there. Three young adults, Molly McLellan Tornow and Stephen Slining Haynes of Central Finger Lakes region and Sarah Mandolang of Alfred will assist her in facilitating four non-violence workshops in East Aceh and North Sumatra.

Four teachers from the Al-Falah School that Nadine has supported in East Jakarta for the past decade will also accompany her to help set up another preschool in East Aceh. Last year they assisted in setting up a preschool for 97 children in Jaring Halus, North Sumatra, a tsunami affected area, but not a former war zone. This preschool will be set up in East Aceh for children who have survived both a tsunami and a lifetime of war. The peace accord August 2005 has made the environment much safer, but the people have suffered greatly, making them much less trusting of outsiders and more developmentally delayed themselves.

Alfred Friends Meeting is accepting donations toward “Jogja Earthquake” victims (through June 29th only) and Nadine’s traveling ministry. Donations may be made out to and sent to Alfred Friends Meeting, PO Box 773, Alfred, NY 14802 or dropped off at Hair Care, 15 N Main Street, Alfred, NY. Tax deduction letters are issued at the end of the year.