To be prepared to respond to natural disasters, especially mudslides and localized floods from too-heavy rains, it is most important, Father Yos concludes, to maintain coordination – not only among individual people taking action but also among organizations and groups, like local government and the Indonesian Red Cross, which are responsible for people’s survival and safety when a disaster strikes.
Father Yos is the Reverend Yosmart Tolede and the Coordinator of the North Toraja’s District Social Welfare Office Disaster Emergency Responders. As a person who is active in his community as well as his church, he longs to help the most vulnerable people affected by disaster. According to Father Yos, a disaster is a shared burden; and response is a shared responsibility – with most responsibility falling to the strong and well-prepared, not those most likely to suffer most from the disaster. “The bible says, ‘Love thy neighbor as you love yourself’ and so, for me, as a pastor, I feel that it is not enough to pray for the people most affected by disasters; I long to help them immediately, directly and materially, too.” Fortunately for Father Yos, CWS and the SOLIDARITAS program can help him achieve his aims.
Before SOLIDARITAS, no villages in North Toraja were prepared for disasters and staff from the newly-formed local District Disaster Management Agency were unsure about their role. Agency staff lacked guidance and guidelines about how to lead and manage an effective emergency response if one were needed. There was no practical coordination of all the people and agencies involved in disaster preparedness and response management. Therefore, a key purpose of the Australian government, which is funding the SOLIDARITAS initiative through CWS, is precisely to improve communication and coordination among communities, especially their leaders, like Pastor Yos, and the Indonesian government departments and teams from the District Disaster Management Agency and District Social Welfare Office, among others. And, according to CWS commitment to local partnership in all its work, in North Toraja, the INANTA Foundation, is involved to design the activities, from a grassroots perspective and understanding, that can foster the needed coordination among everyone involved in disaster preparedness to respond as well as the actual response when needed.
The thing Father Yos likes most about SOLIDARITAS is that it is not only helping leaders and managers strengthen coordination; it is also helping villagers increase their knowledge about disaster causes and ways to mitigate their impact, plus awareness and skills to act effectively when a disaster does happen. He says that activities such as the disaster simulation like the one held recently in Likulambe village was the perfect way to test everyone’s ability and motivation to take on their roles and responsibilities – and to protect others, especially the most vulnerable, just as we would want them to protect us if we are not able to protect ourselves.
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