UMCOR / Our Work / UMCOR Field Offices / NGO News / archives2006 / indonesia_2

Rebuilding Communities, Rebuilding Lives (Part 1)

by Michelle R. Scott

"UMCOR houses are the best ones," Zulkifi said sitting in the living room of his new UMCOR-built house. He likes to compare it to the other homes being built in the area. He then apologizes that his house is empty. It is, save for a straw mat on the floor and the fishing net he is working on to earn some income for his family. He says, "The house is empty because I have no job."

UMCOR is not only helping Zulkifi and people in four other villages in the Bireuen district with housing, it is also helping them restore their livelihoods. Zulkifi is one of 292 people who participated in recent training sessions. The livelihoods program includes a 16-hour course in small business start-up and management followed by an application process through which Zulkifi and his neighbors can request the supplies and equipment they need to start a new business or restart the one they lost in the tsunami.

Providing Needed Support

A local government official, Amir Adli, named jobs as one of the top needs for people in his community. He explains that people want to work, but they lack the support. "Now they have a good house," he says. "But they lost everything." This livelihoods training program followed by equipment and supply grants will help people get the help they need.

At a community gathering near Pineung Siribee Village, dozens of people currently living in temporary barracks-style housing talk about their future. This village is one of the five where UMCOR is assisting tsunami survivors. Many of the people gathered here have already attended the week long livelihood training session and have either submitted or are planning to submit an application to receive assistance in starting up a small business. Common interests are fishing, setting up fishponds, operating small stores, chicken farming, supplying well parts, sewing, and cake making. Most are picking up where they left off before the tsunami. Some, mostly fishermen, are choosing to change their occupation.

Giving and Receiving

Syarifa is one of the more than 500 people who submitted an application to UMCOR. It includes her business plan for a cake making business. In it she says she needs an oven, a way to purchase ingredients, and something to transport the cakes she makes to nearby shops where people buy snacks. This is what she did before the tsunami took her home, her husband, and her only means of income. "Everything was gone except me," she said.

In her application Syarifa also explained how she will give back to the community. Those who receive livelihood assistance will be obliged to return to the community 25% of the value of what they received from UMCOR. The return payment is not expected to be in cash. Instead, beneficiaries can provide free or reduced cost services to their community, hire additional employees, or other creative ways to give back some of what they received.

UMCOR plans to provide at least half of the applicants with material assistance in the form of equipment and other inputs that will allow them to start new or restart businesses lost in the tsunami. A careful review process with a system that awards points for every part of the application ensures that those who receive assistance are the ones who need it the most and that they will enrich their own communities through the business.

Zulkifi, Syarifa, and thousands like them are making the long journey back to normalcy after losing everything just 18 months ago. UMCOR workers are there all the way-walking beside them to help make their recovery complete.

UMCOR is working on assisting displaced people in Indonesia and other places in South Asia to rebuild their lives and return to farming, fishing, or other work. United Methodists can get involved in ministries like these through giving to UMCOR Advance #982450, International Disaster Response. United Methodist Committee on Relief is a 501(c)(3) charity and all contributions are fully tax deductible. Checks may be mailed to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10187-9068. Donors using a credit card may call toll free 800-554-8583.