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Early Recovery …. When Money is the Best Answer!

Regional Media Coordinator Uamdao Noikorn and Digital Vision Manager Taipida Moodhitaporn have met with families whose houses were destroyed when an earthquake hit West Sumatra in September 2009 to find out what their needs are after an early response was completed.

Padang Pariaman, (West Sumatra), Indonesia _ When the earthquake hit West Sumatra and totally destroyed Sawinar’s house, it was not surprising to her as it has been damaged once before from a previous quake.

But it was the time and amount of money required for rebuilding her life and family that made Sawinar and her husband feel hopeless.

An earthquake is a common thing here. But this quake was really powerful and the house wasn’t strong so we expected it to crumble but not totally in rubbles like this,” said the mother of seven-year-old girl and three-year-old boy.

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Sawinar’s house literally crumbled with only the back part still standing. When a 7.6 Richter earthquake hit Indonesia’s West Sumatra iin September 2009, Sawinar said she expected some damages to the house but not this bad. The tremor destroyed thousands of homes and government buildings in Padang and nearby areas.

The family is now living in a temporary makeshift shelter elected next to the house. 

After the disaster, the Indonesian government has provided emergency help including cooking ingredients and emergency kit. However, most people’s biggest problem was the place to live.

So when Sawinar learned that she would be given a cash grant of Rp1.5 million or approximately USD150 from Oxfam, she felt “a huge relief”.

I felt as if a huge burden was suddenly lifted up from my chest…we don’t have our own farmland. My husband is a driver, my brother a farmer. I help around the house and farm works for my neighbors,” she said.

Sawinar is among 5,654 affected households, which have been hit by the quake. There are about 670 houses partially destroyed or slightly damaged. Under the program, Oxfam would give Rp1.5 million to those with severely or totally damaged houses and Rp500,000 (approximately USD50) to those with lesser damages.

Overall, the early recovery cash grant program helped 6,000 families or 30,000 persons from November to December last year in rural West Sumatra, thanks to DEC, AusAid and Oxfam Australia funds.

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Sawinar, 30, and her eldery mother, were talking with an Oxfam program staff about their living conditions and tthe process of getting Rp1.5 million cash grant for house repair. 

Each family/household would also receive transportation fee of Rp20,000 for traveling to town to get cash at the local bank where Oxfam staff were there to facilitate the process and ensure accuracy.

According to Budi Arifin, Oxfam EFSL Officer, the woman in each eligible household would receive a “verification card” that gives information about the situation and the grant. They would present this card on the distribution day. “This is to ensure that money is in a good hand because women are in charge of family finances in this area,” he said.

Meili Narti, Oxfam EFSL Officer said the reason money was the better option was because an early assessment showed that the community markets were functioning. .

The local economy here is resilient. Business went as usual a few days after the quake. Some families also have savings as their relatives go to work in Malaysia,” Meili noted, adding that most families earn regular incomes from farm produce, coconut plantations and related agricultural activities.

So we realize that we should let them choose their priorities. Each house has different damages. Some families need to spend on daily needs or their children before fixing their homes.”

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A pet dog is taking a refuge from the drizzle under a pile of tin and wooden sheets which were parts of a house wrecked by an earthquake in Indonesia’s West Sumatra on September 30, 2009. The materials will be reused for repair work. Having a new house is the biggest priority for residents of this Sikucur village in Padang Pariaman, one of the four worst-hit areas.  

And the urgency for cash is great indeed. On the cash distribution day, the BNI Pariaman bank office was literally swarmed with hundreds of women dressed in colorful clothes as if there was a special event. Some were as old as 87.

Asparida, 36, a housewife from Sikucur Village said she came to the bank just for this and planned to go to the market after receiving the money.

I receive Rp1.5 million. We plan to go the market after this to buy grocery stuff and cooking utensils. The money will have to go to daily expenses first. I’m very happy with it,” said Asparida whose comments were echoed by her friends and neighbors nearby.

But for women with young children like Nurahai, the money could mean a different future for her three children.

Without the cash, I don’t know how it will take to be able to have a new house. One kid is in college while the younger two are already in school,” said the 40-year-old rice farmer.

Nurahai said after getting grocery and her kitchen stuff back, she would have to balance expenses between their tuition fees and the house. “Their futures are very important to me but we also need to repair the house urgently. It’s rainy season now.”

While most women said the cash did not cover all the expenses on reconstruction and households, they said it was “very precious startup money” that encourage them move on faster.

Do you know that it takes between 15-20 years to save enough money for a house? It took more than 20 years for my parents to have this family house,” 30-year-old Sawinar said, pointing to the ruins next to her.

That’s why money is the most useful help you could give. We’re really thankful for this.”

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