INDONESIA: Project Sungai Geringging Update – Week 12

Project Sungai Geringging will be accepting volunteers until April 2, 2010! Please join us in helping West Sumatra recover from the devastating earthquakes of September 2009. We have some great projects currently running and more exciting things in the pipeline. If you are unable to volunteer at the moment we could use your help in other ways; please see our donation page and check out other ways you can help.

Almost three months into the project, and already we’ve welcomed nearly 150 volunteers from 19 countries! Since we opened our doors on the 25th October, we’ve clocked up over 19,000 volunteer hours of service in the community! A huge thank you to all the hard-working, dust-loving volunteers, donors, and supporters who have made this an incredible first three months here in West Sumatra. Here’s a look at what we’ve accomplished so far.

We broke ground for our first transitional shelter in Sungai Geringging this week! (On the first day alone the volunteer team built the entire wooden frame!) We modeled our 24 square meter home on a design originated by the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN). The earthquake-resistant structure (timber frame, plastered concrete walls, and galvanized iron roof) will last for years. The timbers are laid out and pre-cut and the roof trusses built at the HODR base; then the homeowner beneficiary works with a team of volunteers to begin the set-up. The homeowner builds the foundation and floor, provides the windows and doors from their salvaged materials, and contributes to the labor for building the home; the whole process takes only about a week! This is one of the most substantial shelter-building projects HODR has been involved in. If you would like to sponsor a home for one of the most needy and earthquake-impacted families, please give today.

DECON 5 (Deconstruction)
One of our staple programs in Project Sungai Geringging is the “safeing” of unstable homes; those deemed too dangerous to inhabit or rebuild. To date we have taken down 58 structures and created clean slabs for homeowners to rebuild on. As part of this program, we’ve also developed a ‘Safe Deconstruction’ community awareness poster and reference information. These materials have been shared with other organizations and are currently being used to support their outreach programs.

Following the decon phase a swarm of volunteers swing into action, disassembling the roof and salvaging windows, doors, wood, bricks and/or stone. The work is hard and long but the value of the re-usable construction materials makes it all worthwhile (especially when the ice cream man stops by!). A special thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who have toiled in the hot sun or rain to see this work through.

SCHOOL DRR (disaster risk reduction)

At a nightly All-Hands meeting, two volunteers commented that when we had a recent 6.0 earthquake they observed schoolchildren appropriately flee their classrooms only to take shelter under a damaged school roof across the yard. They suggested something should be done…. and something has. A team of volunteers created earthquake safety procedures, evacuation plans and drills, and disaster education activities for children. To date we’ve brought the program to 10 schools and will develop a teacher guide so that these skills are passed on after HODR’s program concludes.

HODR, working in close collaboration with IBU Foundation built 30m of concrete footpath at a remote water catchment/pumping facility. The plant supplies water to more than 1,200 local families and was surrounded by a nearly impassable mud trail. IBU rebuilt the building following the earthquakes and invited HODR to help lay out, place the river rock base, and pour the finish surface of the walk. It was an “all hands” morning, where the full team of HODR volunteers set to moving tons of material from the closest road, through the coconut trees, down a hill, across the river, and up terraced rice paddies to the construction site, a distance of 500m (or more depending on how heavy your load)! I suppose it’s easier to push a heavy wheelbarrow when you’re in a beautiful setting.


It was like a day at the beach. Except it was miles inland, the water was actually flowing, and there was no sand – only algae. A team of HODR volunteers armed with scrub brushes, shorts, and micro-weave nets descended into the above-mentioned water plant storage tanks for a good scrubbing. The algae build-up was no match for their energy and was cleaned without a trace after a day’s work. It was also unusual to have a team return from a day’s work in the field cleaner than when they left!

I have always felt that some of the most creative thinkers in the world volunteer their time at HODR projects. I have attended hundreds and hundreds of nightly “all hands meetings” and heard probably thousands of “reports from the field” at those meetings, but a few weeks ago I heard the best report ever, honestly! Three volunteers stood and performed a work recap/rap parody of a Saturday Night Live parody complete with beat box, dancing, and of course rap. The response of the other volunteers was uproarious and the next day they recorded their own video. You can see it and other creative videos uploaded to YouTube. In the weeks to come, we’ll be adding more volunteer-made videos detailing the work and the day-to-day here in Indonesia.

I would like to give a special thank you to Stefanie Chang who will be leaving Project Sungai Geringging to lead our earthquake assessment team headed to Haiti. I have worked with Stef for the past 3+ years and can think of no one who is more qualified in that role, however she will be missed here in West Sumatra. Be careful and all the best to Stef, David Campbell, and Jeremey Horan on the assessment.

-Marc Young
Operations Director, Project Sungai Geringging

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