Indonesia: Coffee boost for Aceh's tsunami survivors

Originally published
by Teresita P. Usapdin in Meulaboh

You can't get lost if you follow the strong aroma of fresh coffee at the Temporary Living Centre (TLC) in Perumnas (general housing) La pang 2 in Aceh Barat. It will lead you straight to the barracks of husband and wife, Jauharimana and Halima. If not, the neighbours will be more than happy to guide you to their place.

Jauharimana and Halima have become popular residents in the area since they started their small coffee business.

The neighbours don't just smell the coffee. They also drink it, for free. "That is, when the business is good," says a smiling Halima.

Halima, 50 and Jauharimana, 55, parents of 15 children, were among the displaced people of Runding village in Aceh Barat whose houses were swept away by the December 2004 tsunami, which took one of their daughters with it.

The couple, along with three of their children and two grandchildren, were clinging to a tree when Andy, a local Red Cross volunteer, saw them and took them to the TLC in Perumnas.

Moved by the hungry look of the children, Andy handed over a few hundred rupiahs to the couple to buy food before leaving the TLC.

The few hundred rupiahs, it turned out, was not just for food. The couple, who used to run a small store before the tsunami, obviously had a flair for business. They decided to use part of the money to start a small coffee business right in front of their barracks.

With sheer determination and good family teamwork, Halima and Jauharimana now net an average of 200,000 rupiahs (US$ 20) a day for the 30 or so kilograms of coffee they roast and sell to various markets in Aceh Barat.

"Indonesians love coffee. It's like water to us," says Jauharimana as he demonstrates the process of preparing coffee - from roasting the beans, to pounding, sorting and packing - that takes about 30 minutes for each five kilogram batch.

"Coffee not only helps us earn a living. It also brings people closer to us," says Halima handing me a hot cup of coffee before pouring some into glasses set on a tray. "Look, they are all here because of our coffee."

Indeed, the coffee has even attracted the interest of the Danish Red Cross. At the request of the people in the area, it is establishing three coffee shops at three different TLCs as part of its psychological support programme (PSP) for tsunami-stricken families in Aceh Barat.

The programme is being carried out in partnership with the Indonesia Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia, PMI), and in coordination with the International Federation.

Eva Jordung Nicolson, Danish Red Cross PSP manager, said that after consulting with the community, the men, especially expressed their desire to have coffee shops that can serve as a venue for people to gather for meetings, casual chats, or simply to have a cup of coffee.

But apart from the coffee, Eva said, the shop also serves cakes and pastries, too. "Cake is for women to bake. And that is what they want, to keep men and women all together in one place."

"Yes, it's better that we have women in the coffee shop, too," adds community leader Nyakman, sipping his coffee, "So we can share our stories with them, and theirs, too, can be shared with us. Life without women, after all, is dull," he adds, making everyone laugh.

Eva says that being together is, actually, in itself a therapy for people who went through the same traumatic experience, "The coffee shop is just the structure that can help rebuild the life of the people emotionally, mentally and socially."

Eva adds that the opportunity to work and together and learn new skills is also the reason why the Danish Red Cross is providing sewing machines to the women. "Sewing machines are also what the women want. It makes them feel useful to learn new skills and earn a living in the process."

Since the tsunami struck, the Danish Red Cross has been providing psychological support to the grief-stricken families, as well as carrying out community-based disaster preparedness programmes and training people in integrated community-based disaster risk reduction in other tsunami affected areas in Indonesia.

Mobilizing trained PMI staff and volunteers, PSP has reached out to more than 60,000 beneficiaries in two TLCs, one local community, 71 schools in Meulaboh, Aceh Barat district and four communities in Aceh Jaya.

Eva explained that PMI and Danish Red Cross are cooperating to provide PSP programmes especially geared to children, women and men in accordance with their interests, so as to better ensure their participation, and help to give them a more positive outlook.

"Like coffee that perks up the energy and spirit, PSP is something that must build up anew people's appetite for life and reason for living."