Table of Contents

News 19 Sept 2009

Friends Peace Teams
September 2009 Nadine Hoover, Coordinato

1. Spiritual Companions are trying creative ways to build friendships. People who feel a part of this initiative to connect communities of conscience are invited to join us by sending your background, how you spend your time and things that are important to you. We have guidelines and examples from others, so please ask if you’d like to join. I am translating them all and will put them on the website.

2. Spending time with friends in Aceh and refugees from Aceh has made such a difference. Spending time in the camps earlier this year put an end to repeated attempts to evict the refugees. They are now planting, growing, building and generally building a new life. Spending time this summer visiting also led to many discussions about ethical, simple living. We have come to a point that when friends are not honest with me, others feel compelled to tell me. I consistently tell them that they are not dishonest with me; they are dishonest with themselves. For the most part, I can tell they are not being honest. It is hardest to be honest with ourselves, which is necessary in order to be honest with others. The people who are the most dishonest are the ones I trust the most to come find my body and bury it if I am killed in a remote place, to speak up when speaking up is hard, and so forth; they are just also the ones who seem to use money as their drug of choice. Speaking of friend “Jay,” I told another friend that I trust Jay. I trust him entirely. I will never forget or abandon Jay until the day I die, but that money is his narcotic and giving a junkie heroine is not being a friend to him—giving Jay money is not being a friend to him. I was raised working. I am not afraid of work or of simple living. I’m afraid of greed and addiction. Taking the time to have these conversations is at the heart of our best work in the world.

3. New freedom to travel! This summer was the first time in decades I was able to travel in Aceh without a special government permit and military intelligence following my every move. The peace accord has held for four years now and they got through the January and July elections without major incidents. So the Indonesian government has eliminated the special permits. This opens up some of the rural areas that were the “base of the war.” In the past I have not wanted to go there because the military would want to give me an escort, which would scare the local people and without which I would become so suspect no one speaking to me would be safe. So I think this is a critical time for a foreigner to enter those areas. Abuse of authority has become so standard that although police and military know the war is over and they aren’t supposed to shoot people, they still humiliate and harass them and take portions of their produce. Having outside observers forces changes in that behavior that having just local people does not.

4. Loans. Two of our four loans will not come back because the borrowers have an insatiable appetite for spending money now and no sense of a family budget over time. Two of our four loans have been astonishingly productive.

Dahlan used his to put his family’s fish farm back in operation. He was been able to begin building a training site for Alternatives to Violence workshops out over his fish pools because it is quieter there. We did workshops in his family home and dozens of people wanted to peek in the entire workshop. So this will be an improvement. He has conducted AVP workshops in the rural areas hard hit by the war—Alue Merah and Gampong Leh in Nurussalam, East Aceh. I am looking forward to freely traveling to these areas in the Spring. He testifies to his family and friends that living simply, working hard, being generous and peacefully settling disputes is what he wants above all else. He has been offered money and positions, but he has chosen to live on his farm and support the people of his area to best of his ability. It is beautiful.

Pak Darmo, the head of Barak Induk Refugee Camp was also very successful. He did not plant chili right away, which was good because a typhoon would have taken out the crop. Just before I arrived nearly half of his eight rantai (20 meters x 10 meters) were flooded. Soman was down standing all the chili plants back up and rebuilding the raised rows. They are hopeful that they have not lost too much, although the flood will set them back some. I was shocked to see the area planted to green beans last winter was already overgrown to twice my height. I told them my friends will think I’m exaggerating, but that kind of growth would take three years at home at best! They are planting rubber trees among the chili. They say they are going to use the chili to break the ground and plant rubber trees among the chili. After the second planting of chili they are going to replace the chili with papaya as the rubber trees grow bigger. I did warn them to be careful not to convert all their area to a crop that is vulnerable to international price fluctuation. Keep some of it on the local market to make it through the hard times. Darmo says this is rough land; not like Aceh at all! But if he doesn’t begin to plant, how can he convince others. Since they have become more secure this year as well, many others are starting to plant more also.

Based on our experience of the loans that failed, rather than deciding it was a failure, we have decided two things: 1) go slow, start small and proceed in stages; and 2) require family financial plans as well as business financial plans. M’dia is a new AVP facilitator from the very rural area of Gampong Leh. He would like to plant seven rantai to chilis. Dahlan is working with him on an annual family financial plan before we loan him enough to plant three rantai. If that is successful we will consider lending again for expansion.

5. Alternatives to Violence Project workshops are continuing in East Aceh and North Sumatra. In Langsa the staff of the Bustanul Fakri School have used AVP as the foundation for their orientation for new students and for a special weeklong training during the mid-year holiday. They call it peace education, since staff run it. They students really love it!

6. Developmental Play is well underway in the refugee camp. They have about thirty students and five teachers. They will be taking on assistant teachers this fall, so they will have two teachers in each of four play centers. They are accepting children with disabilities as well. Nasrul, who is twelve now, was slowly and gently integrated into the group of toddlers who were at first quite afraid of him.

7. Wheelchairs are available for free from the World Wheelchair Mission. They have sent 550 wheelchairs to Pondok Kasih Surabaya in Java, who have in turn agreed to send as many as we need as long as we cover the transportation. We decided to order two at this time to pilot test one in the refugee camp and one in East Aceh. Ririn in Medan will receive the wheelchairs and deliver them to Mislan in the refugee camp and Dahlan in East Aceh. If they work well and others want them too, we can order more later.

8. Teacher scholarships are coming to a close. Six teachers completed the equivalent of an Associate of Arts degree and Ririn is in her final year pursuing a psychology degree. She will be assisting us in translating our website to Indonesian, so readers may toggle between English and Indonesian. She also continues to support the refugees in conducting AVP workshops.

9. Trauma Healing AVP Advanced Manual will hopefully be out in October; we shall see. It takes an enormous amount of time to write, especially if it has to be done in two languages. We are hopeful, though.

Thanks for all your support and care. It is wonderful to be able to stay with our friends through this time of growing peace and recovery from some of the world’s worst human and natural disasters.

In love and faith,
Nadine Hoover