From Small Actions to Big DREAMS

CWS Indonesia | August 26, 2019

Henrita and others from her women’s group in their community garden. Photo: CWS

Henrita at the garden she inspired! Photo: CWS

In October 2016, a landslide destroyed houses and farmland in Lembang Rano, which is a small, mountainous village in southern Tana Toraja, Indonesia. CWS was already working with communities there, and so partnered with the district Disaster Management Agency to strengthen its disaster response. Then, after the community’s recovery from the disaster, CWS staff and government colleagues saw an opportunity to work with village schools to share disaster risk reduction and response preparedness information in a program called Safe Schools, Safe Communities that CWS was leading in some neighboring villages.

Schools are often good entry points to communities for education and behavior change information of all kinds, including risk reduction, response readiness and management. This is especially so because children are eager to share what they have learned with their families and friends.

As a case in point, Henrita, who is the mother of two children who attended a Safe Schools, Safe Communities schools, recently said, “I was interested in this information [which I heard from children], and I hoped that CWS would begin sharing it with everyone. So, when the village leader told me that CWS would come back to Lembang Rano, I was excited”. Now, CWS partners with Henrita and others in her community through Disaster Risk Reduction through Enhanced Adaptive Measures. For short, the project is called DREAM, and it is designed to help families strengthen their resilience against natural disasters like the landslide that damaged the village school a few years ago.

Quite different from Safe Schools, Safe Communities, DREAM is exploring ways for whole communities to build resilience to disaster. Quite apart from the clear needs for schools to be structurally safer and strong, and for children to know how to protect themselves if a disaster hits, individual families can strengthen themselves in ways that will help the whole community, including schools, be stronger and safer.

One way families can be stronger and more resilient to disasters is by having more resources, especially economic stability. And one way to achieve this is to diversify crops and livestock … and to empower women in the bargain. This is what DREAM does. It supported Henrita and other women in Lembang Rano to form a Savings and Loan Group through which members could save their own earnings from individual work; and, with group agreement, take small loans.

Just as she immediately saw that many more people than schools children could benefit from knowing more about disaster risk reduction, Henrita quickly saw that her Group’s capital grew slowly, and outstanding loans kept the capital at a minimal level. Wanting to help build capital faster so larger loans could be made, and so member dividends could be realized, she called a meeting. After a lot of discussion, members agreed to start a group garden and to sell the vegetables for the collective good of the savings and loan fund.

While wanting mostly to improve her own life, and help others do the same, Henrita noted “a lot of change in our group’s members, many of who used to stay home and take care of their families only”. But, with the group effort, and profit motive, they became gardening enthusiasts. And, in managing a community garden together, they learned more about running their savings and loans group better. All in all, the DREAM keeps growing from safer schools and communities to more secure lives and livelihoods that help families be more ready to address, and be resilient from, the natural disasters they inevitably face in a world of growing climate change and its damaging effects, large and small.

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