Table of Contents

News 9 Feb 2009

Friends Peace Teams, Indonesia Initiative News
January 2009
Nadine Hoover, Coordinator

1. The conflict refugees in Barak Induk are stable and in a much stronger position. Janet Hough, from New York Yearly Meeting, sent us the official UN reference site for protected areas. When we first looked on the internet, Barak Induk’s location was still unclear. The second time we went to look, we realized, we were looking on the edge of the protected zones, since the government has been telling them that they have set up home inside a protected zone. As we looked, it did not make sense. We finally found Barak Induk on the satellite map and it is quite a distance from the Ecosystem and even further from the protected National Park. From the satellite you can see that there is a pocket of land outside the Ecosystem where an outer area palm forest has screened a massive area of logging. Barak Induk is just on the inside border of that palm plantation strip. In addition, data from the site was tremendously illuminating.

There are a number of different maps with different agreements. In 1980, Indonesia designated Taman National Gunung Leuser (TNGL), translated Leuser Mountain National Park, which includes 792,675 hectares. The UN says that this area is controlled and managed by the Government of Indonesia, but its status in unclear. In 1981, This National Park received international recognition under the UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve Convention as a World Heritage Site, but control of the area and its status is still unclear and it is considered unmanaged as an international site.

In 1998, immediately after Suharto era, Indonesia designated the Leuser Ecosystem Conservation Area three times the size of the National Park (2,700,000 Ha), in an area that the government and large corporate interests had maintained for their use by intimidation and force for years. Friends here who have challenged the government in the news on allowing corporations to plant palm in a protected forest have turned up dead in the river or sleeping in a different bed every night to stay alive. The UN site says the Ecosystem has not been internationally recognized, its control and status are unclear and it is not managed. This area was designated the year before the refugees came to North Sumatra.

A third map exists of Leuser National Park. A territory somewhat larger than TNGL but substantially smaller than the Ecosystem (1,094,692 Ha) was recognized under the ASEAN Heritage Convention on 29 November 2004. Again the UN reports that this territory’s control and status are unclear and it is not managed. This was the time period of active efforts to evict the refugees from Barak Induk. This information greatly helped them to interpret what was going on and being said in meetings at that time.

We thought that we would need to get the actual text of these two Conventions, but that point became mute since the maps are very clear that Barak Induk is not inside any of these territories, in actuality it is quite a distance from any of them. They were shocked to look at the satellite images. They said, this means that there is a huge tract of land here that the government has been using and evicting people from for the past fifty years saying that it is part of a protected area, when in actuality it is not at all. That explains a lot of the flagrant, massive planting of palm trees for the past thirty some years. They sit there and say, “Wow, if people around here knew this information, there would be a lot of people who would move in around here. Before the refugees came, local people had moved in seeking land to work, but they had been driven out under the claim that this was part of the protected forest. It is stunning how just having access to the actual maps completely changes their position. It is also stunning how blatantly the government can lie about such a matter because the people with whom they are speaking are poor and have no access to information.

They have also written a summary of their situation and claim. An informal translation is included below. We have made 380 copies so that every family in Barak Induk may have a copy to keep. Having a written story that is their legacy to their children is very helpful in placing the past in the past and moving on. When I get access to internet time, I will finish a formal translation and send it on to the UN, Global Response and a few other national and international friends. They are using the statement and the map to approach the local Governor to request recognition of their status here in North Sumatra. They were very active in the past election and their candidate will become Governor this month. As soon as he is seated, they will take their claim to him.

Just having a foreigner coming and going with them day in and day out has been noted by the local plantations, the Leuser Foundation and local military. This and access to solid information has given them a whole new perspective and strength. They are clear that in a time of great hardship, they did not go to the streets of Medan as so many others, they moved to cleared land, took responsibility for themselves and their families and worked hard. The government should be grateful to them for not making matters worse or creating new problems after old ones. It is beautiful to see them shine with hope and confidence again.

2. For the production of colloidal silver we are still waiting for the glass to build a distiller. The hospitals don’t even use distilled water. The only source we could find was battery water, but the bottles are small and the quality control is terrible. So we will have to distill our own water. Keeping it clean in the process will be the challenge. We are planning a box with a sloped glass top of 100 cm x 70 cm encased in black plastic with a PVC pipe with a section cut out to form a gutter on the lower side of the glass that is tilted to run into a water jug that has a lid that can be closed after distillation.

3. Staying here over time, it’s been impossible to avoid doing massage. Our friend Amir couldn’t keep working on the translations because of his pain. When I asked what the problem was, he said since he fell from his motorcycle he’s had terrible headaches. I treated him twice and he has not any headaches since. The work progressed well after that, but the news spread. In the evenings after work I go for a walk and visit. Sabaruddin, a great AVP participant, had a brother in law who fell on his hand seven years ago and has had a lot of trouble working and he works physically hard most days. I looked at his hand and the radius was out of place. I worked on it a bit and got the bones back in line. It took a few rounds and a splint for two days, but now he’s recovered full use of his right hand. He was so pleased, you can’t imagine. That was it… motorcycle accidents, work accidents, the list goes on and on. It’s manageable since they don’t interrupt me when I’m working. Many people I’ve treated are elderly and have regained much range of motion, which is particularly helpful. It has opened up a lot of goodwill and sense of friendship.

4. I received word from Obama’s campaign that January 19th was a day of service. I was feeling sorry for myself that I was not there to participate and told people here. They were very excited and wanted to do an event for Obama too. We made banners with the elementary students and the Jr. High School students. After the village cooperative road work, the kids all came out. I told them about Obama’s history and his hope to restore policies to benefit the people. The boys in the back said that he couldn’t have gone to school in Indonesia! I told them that that was true. You should have seen their faces; it was like the world opened up and the possibilities boggled their minds. Since then all the kids feel like they know me. They all say hi on the road and speak to me so politely. I can see their parents beam that their child has the nerve to talk to a white person and do so politely, as opposed to the typical child who screams “Albino in the village!” or runs and hides.

5. One of the Junior High School teachers had attended an AVP workshop. I asked her how things were going at the Jr High School. She said the students were passing the national exams well, except for English. So I am now the temporary Jr. High English teacher for an hour a day on Thursday and Saturday, except last Saturday I got there and they said that they had arranged for two hours. Now all the Jr. High students try to speak to me in English on the road. It is so cute. With all these connections, it’s wonderful that all kinds of people here feel a connection and don’t feel I’m a foreigner. When people from outside ask, “What is she doing here?” They respond, “She’s family. She’s here visiting us.” Everyone says that shuts up the questions immediately with some confused expressions. They’ve decided I’m a registered citizen of Barak Induk, since I now have a house here. They joke about being registered. You usually get registered when you get land, but Mislan’s father has given me use of his land, or when you sign up to pay for school or electricity, but I don’t have kids here and they said it would be strange for me to pay for my electricity since I have done so much and brought so much to them.

6. The house is almost ready—the walls are up, the roof is on and all the windows and doors are on. We just need to finish digging the drainage ditch so the house will stop flooding each time it rains. Then as soon as the floor dries out, it will be inhabitable. We have hoed the clay inside the house and will start to pack it as it dries. We laid wood straight on the ground. There seems to be some disagreement about whether or not that will last, but Mislan’s house is like that and the wood is fine after eight years. He feels the wood they used will hold up to being on the ground. The “foundation” is only two inches deep! We have made the top according to my father’s specifications with 50 cm opening in the top of the metal roof and a second small roof 30 cm above the opening with an overlap of 20 cm. There is quite a debate about whether a high wind in a rain will blow water into the house, but they are very interested in seeing how much cooler the house is inside. I told them I am not afraid of water, I’m afraid of the heat—it exhausts me! They laugh. They say we’re opposites. I have been carrying the planks for the house (theirs are particularly heavy) and hoeing the ground. Quite a bit of dirt has had to be moved and the interior floor has to be smoothed. I have done some sawing, but it seems to throw the carpenters off, so I don’t push it. Everyone has taken notice that I am working along side them and are shocked that I can use a hoe! (Their hoes are larger than ours and used like we would use a shovel, but it works well with the dirt here.)

It will be so nice to have a place to do Alternatives to Violence and Trauma workshops, a place to make the rocket stoves and filters, a place to house guests without putting people out of their already small homes, and so forth. I told them that when I am not here they should feel that it belongs to the community and use it for discussions, gatherings, parties or trainings. This will take the pressure off from the village head’s house (Pak Darmo) and make larger gatherings much more possible.

7. The water filters will be ready on February 2, 2009 and then I need to get them shipped from Jogjakarta in central Java to North Sumatra. So we have not begun working on the assembly yet. Jamie Carestio, a potter from western New York, and his friend Ali went to Jogja first. Jamie has been just great in training people here to make rocket stoves. They are very excited about trying the rocket stoves in their homes. We have been working with the wives to do the design and planning. The women tend to stick to their families and not come out much except for specific community affairs. It has been great to get to know them better. We made 350 bricks with two parts clay and one part fine sawdust. They are drying in the sun. We built a brick kiln to fire them in. Usually bricks dry here for 10-15 days. We are hoping to fire them tomorrow, which would be four days, so tonight we loaded them in the kiln and started a small fire to help them dry. We’ll spread them out again tomorrow to dry and are hoping to fire them tomorrow night. I hope they survive and don’t crack up too much. After building the kiln we went from house to house to make four large batches of cob at each house. We are making the grates to hold the wood out of metal scrap ends from the building of the school and we have asked a metal shop in Aman Damai to create one pot skirt out of metal to see how it goes and how much they’ll charge us for it. We told them if it were affordable, we’d order more. If not, we’ll have to figure out something else. I like the design we have come up with and hope it works. We have made

8. The manual for the Trauma Healing workshop is complete in Indonesian. I will need to translate it to English by the time we do the workshop in NYC in April, but for now it is in good shape. I have used Reevaluation Counseling as the foundation for integrating training for “listening companions” into the training (not in the English yet). I am very pleased with the fit and I hope that the RC community feels it works well. We will have to be sure to take the time to consider this since one of the policies of RC is that it not be used in combination with other approaches since its approach is particularly unique. I feel it is completely compatible, but that is for others to determine over time.

9. I read about the Grameen Bank (you can see it on the web). I have talked to them about how it works and they are extremely interested. I didn’t want to add activities, but I was talking to the women in the kitchen. As refugees they have all had to borrow money where they can. All of the families I’ve asked have debt. They laugh and say, “Who doesn’t?” They explained it’s mostly “daily” borrowing. The repayment is by the day and the interest is 240% – 1,150%!! I calculated and recalculated to make sure I understood. I asked the men and they confirmed. When I told them about interest being calculated by the year, they’d never heard of such a thing. The idea of capital at 20% per year was astonishingly cheap. They all want to start right now. I told them that if this is something that is important, we have to take our time, study it, get a trainer who has done such a bank and look into what it would take to bring it here. We can’t just start. They are chest-fallen, but affirm that that is the best. There is so much need. They have started planting forest products (rubber, chocolate, fruit trees, etc…), but all of these take years before they can harvest. So they are in a waiting mode. The village head, Pak Darmo, is planting green beans and chilis. He is being very successful, but he also is only able to do it through debt. I said that was expensive and his field is large. He said that if he doesn’t show people it is possible, others will not try. I am considering loaning him $1,000 for the next harvest (March – June) at a 20% per year rate, which is dramatically cheaper than anything he has access to. I trust him to repay it and it would be a great relief for him as a person who has given massively of himself for so many others. In confidence one evening he shared about how hard it has been for him to have so many people look to him for their survival. We talked about what it was like to try to find food for a couple thousand people driven into the woods, men, women and children. It would be nice to help him. He said that in actuality, borrowing the money was much more helpful than granting it. He said it keeps him and others focused on the productivity of how the money is used. He is very pleased with the idea of learning about Grameen Bank. I said I would look into it and let him know when we return in July.

10. I’m sure the Acehnese are a bit confused about why I didn’t go straight there and are feeling a bit jealous. Highly traumatized people have a lot of issues with jealousy. I will have to talk to Pamela, Chuck and Lee about what that’s about. Jamie, Ali and I will go to Aceh as soon as we complete the rocket stoves. I planned a few days just to visit in Bagok before we plan structured activities. It takes time to build relationships.

11. We are so grateful to recent donors and to Farmington-Scipio Regional Meeting for providing additional funds at this critical time.

12. I am well. I got caught a strep throat from Edo, the eleven year old son here, but am recovering well.

In faith,
Nadine