A lot of updating to do – so I’ll start with our meeting on Friday with Muslim Aid. MA is a very large NGO that does just what its’ title says: it provides aid and assistance to anyone in need, all over the world,with funding coming from those of the Muslim faith. We met Mafuzhar, the Indonesian head of MA, at the last meeting of INGO – the Indonesia NGO’s. MA does a lot of work with clean water and sanitation, and so do we, so we a lot in common. There is a HUGE amount of work to do (by his own admission) as the cleanliness and sanitation at Muslim boarding schools is not good. LDS Charities has been working with NU (Nahdatul Ulama, another Muslim group that runs many of the Muslim schools – known as “pesantren”) to help with their sanitation by building MCK’s(toilets and washing areas for ablution (the Muslim rite of washing prior to prayers). Muslim Aid also helps NU with this problem.
Our meeting today was to discuss how LDSC could work with Muslim Aid to coordinate our efforts since we are trying to work to the same end.
One of the things Mafuzhar shared with us as the lack of training or sanitation understanding that exists in the very small villages in the remote areas of Indonesia. Most people (me included) assume that basic sanitation is just intuitive, but I have learned that it is not necessarily so. For example – some people have no idea what a toothbrush is or how to use one; or why they need wash their hands before preparing meals; or why they get sick because they are using the river for a toilet then use the same river water for drinking or cooking. This is all new to some. Surprising, but true.
We will leave the remote village training to MA and we will try to concentrate our work with schools in larger areas, or ‘centers of strength’ as we call them. Right now, we have a project om Jogja to build or upgrade MCK’s at three boarding schools. Mafhuzar was very pleased to hear this and looks forward to working together to try and expand this work.
One of the interesting comments he made during our discussion was when we were talking about the areas of Indonesia where Christians are less welcome than others, or where the local sentiment is anti-outsider. He had asked how we felt about these areas of ‘sensitivities’, so we told him, if we’;re not wanted somewhere, we;ll go to where we are. He just agreed and shook and his head and said, ‘such sensitivities are nonsense’. Kind of nice to hear him say that. As we said and he wholeheartedly agreed ‘need is need’ – doesn’t matter who needs it, or where the help comes from.
Side note: one of the differences in living here and in the US is the concept of multi-tasks or ‘running errands’. It’s very difficult to do very much because everything takes longer than you think and it takes much longer to get anywhere because of traffic. For example, we had a 9:00 am meeting with MA, then (not knowing the above) scheduled a 1:30 pm flight to Jogja for some weekend activities. Our meeting didn’t start until 10 because traffic was horrendous and we couldn’t get to his office. (Granted, we should have started earlier, but remember, greater Jakarta is 20+ million and you never know). We had to finish up by 11 am because he had to prepare for mid-day Friday prayers (he is, after all, Muslim!) We caught a taxi to the airport and BARELY made our flight. It’s very hard to schedule several things because so you have to leave so much time between them that it usually doesn’t work. We have now resolved to just plan on just one major thing a day. It’s very difficult to get anywhere before 9-10 am (unless you start at 6:00 am), and you need to be done by 2-3 each day because everyone tries to get away from the office because of traffic. (I remember when I was a salesman in Houston, we tried to make 8-10 calls a day….absolutely impossible here.) It’s funny – when we ask how long it might take to get somewhere, the answer is ‘well depending on traffic…’, or ‘if there’s no traffic, 30 minutes’. The problem is, there’s ALWAYS traffic; there’s never NOT traffic!!!! You just have to plan accordingly, and we will try and do that better. We love it here!