Indonesia: Restoring livelihoods to those who lost everything

News and Press Release
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On December 26, 2004 an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia caused a tsunami that took the lives of more than 300,000 people in Southern Asia. In response, CRWRC was blessed to receive nearly $6.5 million from individuals, churches, and businesses. This was matched by government and other grants, enabling CRWRC to spend nearly $16 million on a tsunami-response over the course of 5 years. Here is one story of how that aid made a difference.

For 11 widows in the Indonesian village of Baroh Guenteut, forming a coffee-grinding co-op was about more than earning a living.

Prior to the tsunami, these women, ranging in age from 60 to 85, were well off financially. When disaster struck, they lost everything, including their families and livelihood. Initially, they could not return to work in the salt-laden rice fields so they got together to grind coffee to sell at the local market.

CRWRC provided assistance to the women by offering sound business advice and by building a small hut where they could meet to do their work regardless of the weather conditions.

"We are so thankful for those who have funded us," one of the women said through a translator. "We really feel secure now. It seems like we have a future, and we just can thank God for that."

For the first year, the proceeds from the coffee grounds coupled with food aid from international non-government organizations was enough for survival. By the time the food aid stopped, the widows were able to find additional work elsewhere to support themselves, but they also continued the coffee-grinding co-op.

"The social relationships within the group were like trauma counseling for them," said Mona Saroinsong, program manager with CRWRC in Indonesia. "Even though economically the co-op doesn't provide enough to live on, we are concerned about more than just the economics, but also about the entire human being. When they get together, it brings freedom."

"Being in a group, we are happy together, we enjoy it," said another of the widows. "And that's the most important part."

by David Raakman