“One Community, One Pipe, One Indonesia” : This is the slogan of Lingkar Muda, a disaster recovery organization that was started by a group of friends on the night of Mt. Merapi’s first explosion on October 21, 2010. I followed the group for three days in December while I was on break from my university in Denpasar. I had been following the Merapi disaster on the news and – the development geek that I am – I itched to see it with my very own eyes.
Lilik Krismantaro, who also serves as one of two leaders of the Young Catholic Leaders movement and who lives in Yogyakarta, reached out to his network on Facebook the night of the first explosion. Together with just a handful of other friends, most of them from the Krisna Proconorok Catholic youth network, they formed Lingkar Muda. Most of them learned how to run disaster management projects from their last volunteer stint in the 2006 Bantul earthquake recovery effort. “The Merapi recovery is small compared to Bantul,” said Krsimantaro. The 2006 earthquake, just a few kilometers south of the place where we were standing, killed over 600,000 people and caused billions of dollars of infrastructure damage.
During the first days of the movement, then just a group of friends, Lingkar Muda mobilized an outpour of donations from the Catholic churches in Central Java, including truckloads of used children’s clothes and toys, 2950 units (or about 11km) of plastic water pipes and a headquarters office located in downtown Yogyakarta. During the first and second month, when the mountain was on high alert and evacuations tallied up to the hundreds of thousands, Lingkar Muda concentrated on distributing supplies to evacuees.
Now, three weeks after evacuees returned from the refugee shelters, the organization consisting of about 100 volunteers and the organization is concentrating on recovery efforts. In particular, it is committed to providing pipes to villages whose clean drinking water sources were damagedd by the volcano debris.
On the first day of my visit, six of us (Lilik Krismantaro, Eko Berasitioz, Aris Arjuna, Yulius Kris, Johannas Pandu and I) went to do assessments of three villages who requested pipes from the organization. Each village organizes a small meeting for the representatives of Lingkar Muda who present to the interested beneficiaries (usually the heads of the household from the families whose houses experienced water shortage from the broken pipes). Then the farmers bring the Lingkar Muda representatives to the proposed water source (usually a mountain spring) and show them the damaged pipes. Then, the assessment team makes a final decision as to whether or not the village needed new pipes. Finally, if the assessment results in favor of new pipes for the candidate village, then Lingkar Muda would deliver them or the villagers would come to pick them up.
We visited Dusun (12 km from the volcano in Dukun Kecamatan), Kewayuhan (10 km from the volcano in Tukun Kecamatan) and Getangan (7km form the volcano in Srumbung Kecamatan). Krismantaro facilitates the meetings and serves as the de facto leader of the assessment teams while Budi Eskitmat serves as the program coordinator in the Yogyakarta headquarter office. Many of the volunteers who were there when I visited had been there for almost two months, since only a few days after the second explosion and worst explosion on November 5. Of the three sites, two received pipes. The third site did not demonstrate true need, as they were not experiencing a water shortage but were only in need of new pipes to be attached to the injection pipes that facilitate the speed of the water flow.
On the second day, I followed the team to deliver some pipes and then a truckload of clothes to an orphanage in the foothills of the volcano. On the third day, we visited a potential donor who would provide peanut seeds to plant in farms whose salak fruit plants were destroyed by the volcanic ash. Salak plants, albeit a crash crop that sells at higher prices than rice and vegetables, only bear fruit after one to three years maturity. In the meantime, the salak farmers are impoverished and must temporarily resort to growing other crops.
Moving forward, Lingkar Muda seeks to continue providing pipes in order to repair the drinking water shortage that still exists as well as expand its services based on their conversations with the affected villagers. These include starting a krupuk cottage industry, training salak farms how to grow different crops such as peanuts, reconnecting villages to the electric grid and providing farmers with tractors, seeds and fertilizers.
To learn more about Lingkar Muda or to make a donation, visit http://lingkarmudaindonesia.blogspot.com/
Lingkar Muda asked me to let them see through my eyes, which in more formal terms, means to write recommendations for them. Stay tune for the next blog — I will be publishing them here.