Building a future with own hands in eastern parts of Indonesia

Jakarta (ANTARA) – A Social Affairs Ministry’s staff member consoled a desolate Maria Evin as she embraced her.

“Ma’am, don’t be sad, all right? Social Affairs Minister will come here,” the ministry’s staff member told Evin.

The middle-aged woman could not withhold her tears when one of the members of the staff from the Social Affairs Ministry came with good tidings for her and her family. Like a sign from God Almighty, the rain vanished, and the dark clouds gave way to the sun.

The touching exchange took place in Heso, a small settlement in Golo Wune Village, South Lamba Leda, East Manggarai District, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). This is one place in Indonesia’s eastern part where the mountains are sky high, and its surface is perpetually kissed by fog and clouds.

As the popular saying goes, “there is no such thing as free lunch,” a price is somehow to be paid for all things beautiful. Here, in NTT, the biting cold and steep pathways are a small price to pay if one is inclined to enjoy the all-natural view, with the air still pure and untouched by pollution.

Earlier, the noises and dust from the tires of off-road automobiles grinding on the perilous pathway were swallowed by the pouring rain. One should have tremendous patience, a steel will, and some drugs to get to Heso.

After the welcome, Evin showed her house that was just some steps away.

For those living comfortably, a space of two by three square meters can serve as a room for one. However, the reality is vastly different for her. In that very space, she lives with her three children named Riski, Ridwan, and Hilda. Her eldest daughter is married and lives in the neighbouring village.

The house was in a precarious condition, as it was built using age-old wood, with considerable gaps between them, in addition to plenty of holes on the roofing. They covered the holes on the walls with whatever old fabrics they had.

When it rains, the cold becomes unbearable, and they had to seek shelter at their neighbor’s place.

In the house, there is only a worn divan, covered in blue tarp, for the entire family to sleep on. The space is also attached to a kitchen next to the door that has a rack to keep the wood that will be used to fuel fire for cooking on the pot hung beneath the rack.

When the night falls, darkness swallows the place, as her house lacks electricity. The only light coming is from a simple oil lamp, unlike other houses that are already powered. She has no funds to fix her home or get electricity installed.

She works as a farmer and gets paid Rp25 thousand (US$1.6). Since it was barely enough, she also collects rock, and each month, she gets paid Rp350 thousand (US$22.26) for a whole dump truck worth of rocks.

Due to budget constraints, one of her children dropped out from school to help around the house.

It was sad. However, the grief and wait soon came to an end when news on her tale was propagated on the internet.

Standing on your own soil

Maria Evin (second right) with her children and grandchild in front of her home in Heso, Golo Wune Village, South Lamba Leda Village Sub-district, East Manggarai District, East Nusa Tenggara, Sunday (25/2/2024). Social Affairs Ministry immediately aided Maria Evin soon after the tale of her hardship was spread by mass media. (ANTARA/Mecca Yumna)

News of her tale spread far and wide until it reached Social Affairs Minister Tri Rismaharini. As soon as the news was received, aid was sent to Evin through the Efata Center. The assistance comprised staple foods and hygiene products, new identity card (KTP), and household membership identification (KK).

Moreover, the ministry facilitated Evin’s ownership of the land that was currently held by her husband’s family.

The last step was taken to avoid friction among families over the house that the ministry will build for Evin on that land.

Evin has a husband, though he remarried in Kalimantan. He left for Kalimantan back in 2015, seeking a better life over there. In 2017, she and her children followed suit and stayed, all the way until the fourth child was born.

While they were there, the supposed man of the house never took care of the woman and the children’s needs. Hence, in 2021, they decided to return to NTT. Even when they returned, nothing was sent back home to ensure their livelihood.

Evin is quite skilled in weaving, though she has none of the means nor time to pursue a business out of that. Hence, the ministry is considering other forms of aid that are assets for the weaving business as well as pigs for her child to tend to.

During her visit to Golo Wune Village, Rismaharini repeatedly reminded the men and youth to take Evin’s tale as a lesson, and let her case be the last of its kind. No men or youngsters must leave the soil.

The ex-mayor of Surabaya also encouraged the women to contribute to the village’s development through labour-intensive projects, as she believed that the women are strong. They have the strength to carry a fetus for nine months, so they have the strength to do more.

She believed that the village has abundant natural potential that can be tapped into, such as paddy fields, coupled with dense forests. Through efforts and willingness, the people can live a prosperous life and would no longer have to go through what Evin had experienced.

Starting small for better eastern Indonesia

Still in NTT, though separated by hundreds of kilometers of seas, the effort to independently manage the region’s resources is pursued by Kupang’s Efata Center. Socially vulnerable people like Evin partake in trainings hosted by the ministry for the betterment of their future.

Despite reeling under scorching and prolonged heat conditions, only getting breaks from one or two fans installed in the halls, their spirits were at an all-time high to learn.

In one hall, the participants followed the instructors, baking trendy cookies with local ingredients, such as moringa and corn.

Some participants making pastry in a class hosted by Kupang Efata Center, East Nusa Tenggara, Tuesday (27/2/2024). Social Affairs Ministry hosted some classes, such as coffee-making, pastry baking, and fast food cooking, from February 26 to March 3, 2024, in order to improve the vulnerable people’s capability so they can be productive. (ANTARA/Mecca Yumna)

One of the participants is Yati. The woman with a disability had picked up some baking skills a few days ago, but she is already brimming with ideas for her new business by preparing and selling moringa nuggets.

She believes that they are easy to prepare, and the ingredients are easier to procure, so it could be a profitable addition to her weaving business.

In another hall, the participants learnt how to make fast food items with moringa as one of its ingredients. One of the participants was Yato from Maumere, who expressed through sign language that he worked as a stonemason.

Head of the Kupang Efata Center Tota Oceanna stated that the training, hosted from February 26 to March 3, 2024, was held as per the minister’s directive. Among the classes offered were coffee-making, pastry baking, and fast food cooking, with as many as 120 participants from districts and cities all over NTT, such as Malaka, Sikka, Kupang City.

The head of the social center expects that the training will empower the people, and they could become productive, so their items could be sold at the Ramadhan Bazaar that draws near. The experience would also teach them about marketing.

As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day.” However, according to local wisdom, slowly but surely, through persistent efforts, a heap of results can be obtained. A heap that would grow into beautiful mountains, no different than NTT’s natural landscape.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
Copyright © ANTARA 2024

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