Wow, what an amazing start to Project Sungai Geringging (still love saying that!). We opened our doors on 25 October 2009 and in the following weeks have had 65 volunteers, representing 13 countries spanning the globe from Indonesia to Canada to Ireland to Russia to Lebanon!
We are assisting survivors of the 7.9 earthquake which rocked Western Sumatra on 30 September, 2009, and was followed by a separate 7.0 earthquake the following day. The earthquake damaged over 200,000 homes and survivors now struggle to remove the ruins and erect shelter as the rainy season quickly approaches.
Decon 5 (deconstruction)
We started with it on Day 1 and we’re still busy with it – deconstruction of rural homes. During the earthquake homes shook violently and walls buckled, often leaving the roof intact. Although the affected population of Padang Pariaman is proactively working to reclaim their ruined homes, many are so severely damaged that it is beyond the community’s ability to deal with the unstable structure. So the homes sit as a haunting reminder, precariously waiting to fall. The HODR hard hat team analyzes the structure, creates a safe working environment, re-claims salvageable materials, then in a controlled fashion brings the roof to the ground. Once the overhead hazard has been eliminated, volunteers busily remove the corrugated metal (aka zinc/galvanized iron/GI), disassemble the wooden trusses, and separate usable brick/stone from mortar. To date we have assisted in the safe deconstruction of 21 homes and 1 elementary school.
The driving force behind what we are doing is not only the elimination of unsafe structures but also the salvage of rebuilding materials. Doors, windows, ventilation block, wood, and zinc are all high value items in this area and everything we salvage translates directly to a cost saving when rebuilding. We have seen families utilizing their salvaged materials almost as quickly as we create it, turning the recycled pieces into temporary shelters and kitchens. The local household income for our area is equal to about US$70.00 per month, and our brick salvage efforts alone equates to about 2 months wages!
As our numbers swell, we’ve been keeping one step ahead with the build-out of our base. Our house starts as a blank slate (a pretty spacious fantastic blank slate), and over the weeks we’ve brought in bunks, built shelves, erected large canvas tents to increase the sleeping space and common areas, and expanded our rainwater catchment system to supply our water. If you arrive at the project today, it should look like the familiar HODR setup that you’ve seen at our other projects around the world. Thanks to all the volunteers who have worked at the base, making it a more comfortable and efficient place from which to run our work in the field.
1st Time & Repeat Volunteers
One of the highest compliments to our organization is to have a volunteer repeat their service at another project. We are proud of our programs and the work our return volunteers enable us to do (38% of volunteers on this project). Project Sungai Geringging is breaking some new ground on our international front with a high percentage of 1st time volunteers (62% of volunteers on this project). It is an honor to have so many people willing to fly almost around the world to join us on their first HODR experience. Thank you!
Although, schools (particularly primary schools) suffered heavy damages in the earthquake, resources for temporary classrooms were quickly mobilized and many now sport rows of temporary timber/plywood classrooms – a more conducive learning environment than hot canvas tents! However these temporary classrooms are often built right next to a precariously damaged masonry school building. Our deconstruction team worked side by side with local volunteers to “safe” an elementary school in a neighboring korong (neighborhood). The work was complicated and the scale was much bigger than the single-family homes we have been working on. Nonetheless, we brought the huge trusses down and salvaged tin that was quickly used to construct new temporary classrooms. Now, a new 3-classroom school building is under construction on the very site we helped demolish and clear.
On many of our international projects we have the opportunity to help students learn and practice English. In this case a local high school teacher invited our volunteers to come to his classes and engage students in conversational English with his students. Now, 2 days a week our volunteers engage high school students in topics ranging from life at home to life on the go.
Project Sungai Geringging has been helped by many people so far, one of them being Pak Andreas, an Indonesian businessman based in Jakarta. He continued his support in the form of a donation of hygiene, household, and food items to be distributed to our neighbors. Our volunteers unpacked, inventoried, sorted, and repackaged the goods in suitable portions and will distribute them with the help of local Posko (community-based information exchange) organizers. In all more than 500 beneficiary families will receive needed items!
HODR is always looking for opportunities to help communities in need and for ways to engage our volunteers in meaningful programs, often in partnership with other organizations. One week ago, we started working with IBU Foundation, an Indonesian NGO at work in Agam (the district just north of us) where they are building an IDP (internally-displaced persons) camp. These families lost their entire community in earthquake-induced landslides, and now they’re working with IBU to build shelters, water systems, and latrines in their new home.
So far our work with IBU Foundation has taken us to Sini Air camp. As a HODR satellite project, our volunteer team lives and works away from our main base. In this case, they’re living in the IDP camp in a remote area (more remote than Sungai Geringging!) with no infrastructure. In the first round of this project, we installed 10 rainwater catchment systems on the transitional shelters; this week we return to help construct 2 communal latrine blocks.
People & Place
Part of a HODR project is experiencing the community we live and work in. Sungai Geringging has been friendly and welcoming to the volunteers who have come here to help. “Hello Mister!” and cheerful motorbike horn beeps ring out wherever we pass. Volunteers have become an established presence at the local warungs (streetside food stands) and in the market. We were even invited to a local wedding party! Volunteers have also explored the area on their own, taking weekend trips to Bukittinggi, hiking up local volcano Gunung Merapi, and renting boats off the beach in Pariaman. Through these activities, we gain a better understanding of the people and the place of Padang Pariaman. (Ok fine, the trips to Bukittinggi might just result in appreciation for the Big Bucket at KFC.)
With two and a half months of Project Sungai Geringging left, there’s plenty of time to come and volunteer! Taking it one house at a time, we’ll continue our deconstruction/salvage work as well as expand the diversity of our programs with the community and NGOs, bringing Sungai Geringging closer to the path to recovery.
International Operations Director
Hands On Disaster Response