On the 30th of September 2009 in the Indian Ocean near Indonesia, the earth shook. The earthquake registered 7.6 on the Richter scale and caused serious damage, mainly in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra. In the province’s capital, Padang, roughly 50% of all houses were destroyed. According to official statistics, 1,115 people lost their lives and 2,200 were injured.
At the request of the Indonesian department of health and with the support of the foreign office, the “Friends of Waldorf Education – Emergency Pedagogy” sent an eleven-person crisis intervention team into the catastrophe zone. The team, consisting of pedagogues, therapists, psychologists and a doctor, helped psycho-traumatized children to process their experiences, using methods from Waldorf Education. The emergency management in Padang (provincial capital) and Agam (district) directed our team to the mountain villages Sungghais Batang on the Maninjau volcanic lake and Malalak.
The camp for the homeless in Sunggai Batang lies on the Maninjau volcanic lake. Before the earthquake the now no longer existent villages were nestled on the steep walls of the crater along the shores of the lake. The inhabitants of the four destroyed communities now live in close confines in the camp. 705 people have to live in 94 tents. Fawaaz, the UN camp coordinator tells of serious social tension between the inhabitants.
Together with the Indonesian aid organization, “Muhammediyah”, we began to work with the children in the camp. After rhythm and movement games in a big circle, the children were separated into groups. The younger children danced to flute music, modeled animals out of beeswax, made little dolls out of fairy wool and were overjoyed when they were allowed to cradle a bigger doll in their arms. Meanwhile in the art therapy group, the children used wax block crayons to draw figure-eights, painted with water colours and could also draw what they chose. One girl left the middle of her picture empty. On being asked, she filled the space in the centre with motives of the earthquake. Another group worked with experiential pedagogy. The children passed a ball around the circle with great concentration, using a large and colourful parachute.
While the children were being cared for by the emergency pedagogues, a group of adults met in one of the communal tents. The psychologists and therapists offered them psycho social assistance in the form of conversation, which they gratefully accepted. Dede, a 45 year old English teacher said, “When the earthquake began, I was very worried about my family. I only found my 14 year old daughter the next day. No one was injured. Nevertheless, I now suffer from stomach problems and vomiting.” The 74 year old Batu Nangai has been a widow for 40 years. Until the earthquake she made a living growing cinnamon and nutmeg. Now everything has been destroyed. She said,” I don’t know how I am going to be able to make a living. Since I have been living in the camp I have leg and back pain. My eyes also hurt.” The 49 years old Yunizar comes from Batu Nangai. He told us, “I fear for the future of my five daughters. I am particularly depressed about the fact that I can no longer afford to pay the university entrance fees for my daughter. But at least the work on the fish farm distracts me.”
The work of the crisis intervention team of the “Friends of Waldorf Education – Emergency Pedagogy” in the earthquake zone in West Sumatra found recognition and was held in high regard. The mayor of Sunggai Batang, Ashin Datuk Bandaro Kayo thanked us in the name of the whole village for “all the positive deeds you performed”. The head of the health service in the region of Agam, Dr. Indra Rusli expressed his thanks on the behalf of the regional government and the head of the health office in Padang, Dr. Lily, presented us with a letter of thanks from the Ministry of Health of West Sumatra, expressing great appreciation “from the bottom of our hearts” for the Emergency Pedagogy operation. Through the German Embassy the team was invited to the Kempinski Hotel in Jakarta to give a report and receive thanks.
You can read a full report of the mission here.