Classes started yesterday. This sem I’m doing Media Law, Media Contexts, Introduction to Digital Media, and Digital Storytelling. I no longer have classes with the same big group of people. 😥 But subjects seem interesting enough.

I wrote a report for NDI and since I’m lazy to recount what I did in Aceh in a more personal way all over again, you’ll just have to read the following report if you’re interested lah:

With a vast amount of land 1726 times the size of Singapore and tremendous foreign and internal affairs to handle, Indonesia is sometimes too overwhelmed to launch solid development programmes across the nation. Without sufficient resources to bring about holistic development, poverty in rural areas is sometimes neglected. However, with estimates of more than 80 million of the population (36%) living below one US dollar a day in 2006, a greater urgency for help can be seen in recent years.
 
The need for an organization to bring specific areas of help for a more holistic and sustainable development in Indonesia inspired an inter-university group of students to form Nusantara Development Initiatives (NDI) as a committee under the Indonesian Students’ Association in Singapore (PPI Singapura).
 
As NDI’s first project, Project SaCH’s objective was to promote the importance of sanitation and hygiene amongst rural dwellers in Meulaboh, Aceh, one of the worst-hit areas of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Pulling in volunteers from various ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, they worked hard to make this project a reality.
 
Partnering World Toilet Organization (WTO) and Acehnese Solidarity for Humanity (ASoH), NDI volunteers went to Meulaboh, Aceh from 24 July to 1 August 2009 to carry out hygiene education for children, household surveys on sanitation, and water quality testing.
 
After getting the necessary supplies for our activities, carrying out a recce, and meeting the local parties involved in this initiative on the first day, we carried out our survey on hygiene practices in the Suak Pandan village on 25 and 26 July. Members were split into groups of three to conduct the surveys among 102 households. In general, it was found that the villagers draw water from their own wells, and toilets built inside the homes are underutilized due to various reasons.The survey results, coupled with data from the water quality testing, is still being compiled by our research team for further action to be taken to improve hygiene conditions in Meulaboh.

Me and a slightly moody Nurul who didn't want to join captain's ball

Following the survey, a hygiene camp facilitated by saNDI members was held in Sekolah Desa Keub from 27 to 31 July, Monday to Friday. In that period, an estimated 50 kids were taught about the importance of washing their hands before meals and after using the toilet, the eight steps of hand-washing, the importance of eating clean food, and the right way to brush their teeth. We also taught them simple English, songs, games, and conducted activities to boost their confidence and inspire them to have dreams. On the last day, each group had the chance to perform a sanitation-related skit or song in front of everyone, a process that everyone greatly enjoyed. After finding out that certain kids did not have toothbrushes or nail-clippers at home, personal hygiene kits sponsored by WTO and simple stationery was also distributed to each kid at the end of the camp.

Rahmat, Aidil and Richmond teaching the kids.

 
On the afternoon of 28 July, a Mother’s Workshop was held in the Community Hall of Suak Pandan to educate the village folk about nutrition and hygiene practices. Hand-washing, teeth-brushing, the food pyramid, hair-lice, and diarrhoea were among the issues discussed with the mothers. This led up to an inter-village cooking competition two days later, where each village was provided with a certain amount of money to buy the necessary ingredients. The villagers turned out in full force and gave an impressive feast. The competition was judged based on hygiene, taste, and presentation.

Judging the cooking competition. Look at the anxious mothers and the greedy me!

Judging the cooking competition. Look at the anxious mothers and the greedy me!

 
We also distributed one family hygiene kit per household to the villagers in Suak Pandan according to the name list provided by the village head. This proved to be a challenging exercise as people registered as village residents who no longer lived there also returned to collect a kit, a move highly resented by the locals. Nevertheless, the dispute was successfully settled.
 
There were other minor hiccups here and there during the trip with nearly half the team falling sick in the middle due to the weather and insufficient rest. There were also many changes in our schedule: the Hygiene Education Camp was extended from three days to five days, the Mother’s Workshop was shortened, and the programmes had to be tweaked accordingly. Nevertheless,  the team did a good job adapting to the local culture and different situations and we managed to run our programmes successfully.
 
As a student-led initiative, this first forray into community work in Meulaboh, Aceh has been a success, thanks to the various local organizations that generously provided their assistance, including WTO, ASoH, and the Spanish Red Cross. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that little can be achieved in a mere ten days, and there is still much more to be done in order for any lasting impact to be felt.

As all NGO visas in Aceh expire by the end of 2009, we foresee a greater need for sustainable development initiatives to be kickstarted there. We hope that an independent and entrepreneurship mindset can be cultivated among the locals so that instead of relying on outside help, they can come together to build and advance their villages on their own.

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