Several teams of Family International members mobilized just days after the first eruption of the Merapi volcano in central Java to help victims and evacuees of the explosion. According to local officials, one of the greatest needs in the camps for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), as the evacuees and victims were called, is encouragement and inspiration as each one left homes, farms and more behind to flee for safety.
Our team has been focusing on just such a motivational program which included puppet shows along with teams doing songs, balloon art, games, sports and other activities with the children helping to bring joy and happiness despite the problems and hardships. In addition they distributed a 9 ton shipment of various food items, clothing and stationery and medical supplies to some of the most affected areas that were receiving the least amount of aid.
As the volcano began to erupt continuously with a very large eruption lighting up the night sky. sending ash into the air six kilometers high, our teams had to quickly evacuate and move to a safer location leaving their puppet show and other materials behind temporarily.
During that time TFI volunteers also helped in the food kitchens for the DPIs along with giving basic medical care to the children and adults for cuts and sores on their feet and legs as well as injuries and sprains received from their quick evacuation.
Fortunately after a few nights of sleeping on the ash covered floors of the camps, the puppet show materials were retrieved and the puppet shows were back as the team worked to inspire, entertain and encourage the children again.
Now imagine your previously fertile farm lands now covered with an inch of ash which has turned to a hard concrete-like substance. Or imagine your rice fields which were ripe and ready for harvest now flattened by hot ash. Or the parts of your crop which seemed to survive are covered with fungus and unable to be harvested. --No harvest means no resources to start again.
That was the situation on many of the farms after the devastation brought by Mt. Merapi. The volcano is now silent but the aftereffects of the eruption will continue for some time to come. Facing these difficulties brought despair and hopelessness to many of the farmers who have lived in this area for years.
In an effort to help and working with the local community TFI members through generous sponsorships assisted over 100 farmers with the needed seed, fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide –all essential to restoring the land and planting new crops. In addition, TFI members distributed 2.5 tons of rice to local families and a small stipend was given to a number of workers who help to work the farm land there but have no land of their own to farm.
Originally Published in 2007