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Church World Service works on recovery in Indonesia

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Photo by Chris Herlinger, Church World Service

Mahmud Itam, a fisherman in Meue village in Aceh's Pidie district, moves equipment in front of fishing vessels provided by Church World Service.
Aug. 10, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Indonesia is recovering from the 2004 tsunami, although at a slower pace than first expected, according to the regional director for Church World Service there.

Problems slowing the process include difficulties in tracing land ownership, securing of proper materials and a lack of trained builders.

“These are all slowing down the building of the houses,” said Maurice Bloem, who is based in Jakarta and has led CWS work in Indonesia and Timor Leste for nearly seven years. Bloem and Yasmin Kapitan, communication and information coordinator for CWS Indonesia, spent Aug. 7-8 at CWS headquarters in New York.

On the island of Nias, for example, “we work with the people themselves,” he said. “The local carpenters are building our houses.” But because of a lack of skilled carpenters, training is needed for additional builders.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief — which has its own tsunami recovery operations — is among the funding partners for the CWS tsunami work. Both are members of Action by Churches Together, and CWS Indonesia is an implementing partner of the ACT tsunami appeal.

The CWS Indonesia response to the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami is focused on Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar, Nias and Meulaboh. Projects include programs to rebuild livelihoods, provision of water and sanitation facilities, housing construction, distribution of various supplies, health and nutrition activities, and programs of psychosocial support.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Photo by Chris Herlinger, Church World Service

Ibrahim Abbassayah is a member of a crew helping rebuild houses with Church World Service support in the village of Meue, Pidie district, Indonesia.

The activities include:

  • Forming 18 farming groups, 14 animal husbandry groups, six paddy farmer groups and one fishermen’s group on Nias to provide livelihood assistance to 516 households.
  • Producing and supplying clean water to 7,328 people daily in the Meulaboh area.
  • Offering educational and creative play activities to nearly 600 children in seven villages in the Banda Aceh area.
  • Completing 23 of 84 houses to be built in Madula village, Gunung Siotoli, and beginning construction on a children’s playground there.

CWS has been in Indonesia since the 1960s, working in partnership with local organizations, and currently has a staff of 308. Many other organizations have come in to do tsunami work, some less successfully than others, according to Bloem.

“We had to face the difficulty of new NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) flying in and not being committed to staying five or 10 years,” he explained. “And it will take five or 10 years of work.”

Much of the CWS focus is on strengthening and monitoring local NGOs and community organizations “so they can continue our work,” Bloem said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Photo by Chris Herlinger, Church World Service

Nurmali, a resident of Krueng Kala village, gets water from a Church World Service project.

The tsunami recovery and other disasters, including the recent earthquake and tsunami on the southern coast of Java and the earthquake in central Java, are only a part of CWS work with community organizations and vulnerable populations in Indonesia. Overall priorities include improved child nutrition, improved access to water and sanitation, and strengthening the country’s civil society.

Indonesia has a “huge, hidden hunger problem,” Bloem reported. It also has a growing HIV infection rate that could affect the general population within five to seven years.

For the most part, day-to-day relations between Muslims and the minority Christians in Indonesia are good, and religious groups play a crucial role in HIV/AIDS education, he said. “Faith-based leaders are an important element in the society of Indonesia.”

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

Maurice Bloem
“Progress is going reasonably well.”
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