I am just back from Indonesia having met with our community partners and SurfAid teams who are now working across four locations. Thankfully, we have been without a major earthquake or tsunami in the islands west of Sumatra for close to four years, which has really given the projects a chance to get into gear without the disruption of a major disaster.
There is a remarkable energy among the village volunteers and local health staff with whom we work. Our lead mother and child health project in Hiliduho, Nias, will be completed in October. Each of the 13 villages now has a working community health post, most of them thriving and sustained by local income generating initiatives such as catfish ponds, vegetable gardens and local stores or 'warungs'.
With rain a constant prospect in the sweltering heat, one of our visiting groups crossed a river and walked uphill for an hour, while another group visited hamlets where we'd worked with the locals to get more than 40 water facilities flowing. Some community volunteers were stridently delivering health messages to young mothers, while toddlers swarmed around a makeshift crèche. Village seniors and the local health department head were enthusiastic about the improvement in healthy behaviours and the impact for local families.
Young midwives, who previously had no experience in child delivery and had left the villages at 3pm to head back to town, now have a month’s experience delivering babies in the provincial hospital and they are living in the communities they work with. Mothers are attending the health post with their children, educating each other on behaviour change, and visiting the most marginalised people who always miss out. This project is a model approach that the Indonesian Health Minister sent a Special Advisor from Jakarta to check out. The locals feel that they own it as they participated in the design and assessment, and donors have asked us to bring the project to remote areas in Sumbawa and Sumba, in Eastern Indonesia, which currently have some of the worst mother and child health stats in all of Southeast Asia.
We have been fortunate to attract experienced and really motivated staff, working closely with key staff from our Sumatran projects, to develop multi-year projects in these new project areas in the east. It is dry season there and we are working with isolated coastal communities, firstly to ensure water is available all year. It’s early days but enthused hygiene volunteers showed us latrines that more than half the families built themselves, most with a really simple handwashing station - a container, stick and a rope – which is foot operated for less bacterial transfer. It’s simple, locally made, maintained and used. It’s all about seeing positive change in people's lives that they 'own' as theirs.
Our Emergency Preparedness project received uniform 'excellent' ratings from an independent reviewer who looked at its design, relevance, impact and sustainability. This is incredibly encouraging from sector experts and a huge tribute to the work of our programme team.
Exciting times for little old SurfAid. Thank you for your ongoing support.