Last week I traveled to Central Java, Indonesia, with ChildFund International’s Board to take a firsthand look at our programs. Yesterday, I posted about our visit to an Early Childhood Development center.
Our next stop in Indonesia took us to a posyandu, or village health services post. In this remote rural area and in the absence of medical facilities, the posyandu is set up in a community member’s house twice a month (opening times are announced at the village mosque the previous day) and provides health services to the local community. ChildFund provides training to community health volunteers. We focus on maternal and child health, pre- and post-natal care, breastfeeding and developmental stimulation for infants and young children. ChildFund also provides food supplements and medicine.
On this day, the posyandu is bustling with activity, providing birth registration, growth monitoring (height and weight), immunization, counseling and supplementary feeding for children. There’s also parenting education for mothers as well as hygiene training.
Clearly, there’s a malnutrition issue in this area, which was severely affected by the 2010 Merapi eruption. The entire village was evacuated and it took a year for the community to return to normal life. Water sources were polluted and all crops were completely destroyed by volcanic ash.
As I weigh Tegar, a 3-year-old boy, I note that he is smaller than he should be. The village midwife tracks his height and weight monthly; the chart shows he is below average. For cases like this, we routinely offer nutrition counseling on site and provide supplemental food. And we keep close check on the children who are underweight. If a child misses two appointments at the health post, we follow up with a home visit.
As we prepare to serve children a nutritious meal of rice, egg and vegetables, community volunteers first remind mothers and children to wash their hands. “Now we understand it is important to wash our hands before and after preparing food and eating,” Murjilah, a young mother, tells me.
As our group prepares to depart, menacing dark clouds move in. The weather can change quickly on the slopes of Merapi. And then the heavens open. We hit the winding roads again, surrounded by lush vegetation; this part of Java certainly gets its fair share of rain.
Our final stop for the day is to visit a sponsored child. Visiting a family dwelling always brings home the fact that ChildFund really does serve the most deprived people.
When we can go no farther on the road, we get out of the car and walk the rest of the way in the pouring rain to the house, which sits at the bottom of a steep path. As we enter the home, it is dark and damp. The father rushes to turn on the lights and greets us with a warm smile and a soft handshake. The floor is an uneven surface of stones and dirt. The living room has three chairs. A little girl, Sidi, emerges from the kitchen area. She has been sponsored for one year through ChildFund.
Once we get acquainted, she becomes talkative. “I dream of becoming a doctor to help my parents stay healthy,” she tells me confidently. Sidi is in school and doing well. She says she enjoys learning and being with her friends. She wants to make her parents proud.
We go through to the kitchen area, which consists of nothing more than an open fire pit and a rack on which to store plates and utensils. The mother starts a fire. She tells me the family will eat rice and vegetables for dinner, like every night.
A tiny bedroom sleeps five and I notice a ChildFund-provided mosquito net. Good to see the children have some protection against malaria.
An unusual family member lives in the next room. As I go through the door, a large cow, chomping grass, stares at me. I learn that the family received the cow as a gift through ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog. The cow is providing a steady source of milk and is making a real difference in Sidi’s family’s life.
Although conditions remain challenging for many families in Indonesia, I am happy to see children like Sidi moving forward with their education and their dreams.