Yohanis Tefu, who is 29, lives in a tiny hamlet in West Timor with his 73-year-old adoptive mother, Silpa Sopaba, and his three other siblings. Silpa is actually the siblings’ aunt, and she has been caring for her sister’s children since her sister died, along with the children’s father. When Yohanis was young he developed a high fever, which was the main symptom of a still-undiagnosed condition that paralyzed him from the waist down. He was in the 3rd grade at the time but had to quit school, and then Silpa, as a single mother, struggled to care for Yohanis and his siblings. She had to balance farming, caring for her pigs and chickens with weaving – all to make ends meet. Even when the oldest child, Mesakh, was old enough to help support the family, the family struggled with challenges, large and small. For example, lack of a sanitary latrine that Yohanis could use made thing more difficult for everyone as he always needed somebody’s help for this.
So, while Silpa does continue facing many challenges for and with her family, since 2015 she and Yohanis have received a monthly cash allowance of ≈167,000 Rupiah ($12) from the Family Service Program of the District Social Affairs Service. This payment for elderly and disabled people is meant to help families cover some daily expenses; but is nearly not enough to meet all critical needs. So, to help address this challenge, in the context of our inclusive community development work, CWS is now partnering with the District Social Affairs Office to fill gaps left after their help; and, in this case, our help is for hygiene and sanitation.
First, as a pilot to explore how we can be most helpful to people with disabilities who are part of all our work, in this initiative, CWS supported building a modern, accessible latrine for the Yohanis – which the whole family benefits from too. The latrine has a raised toilet seat, which is rare since squat toilets are the norm; an accessible water tank for pour-flushing, and a paved footpath from the house, which is not a luxury since Yohanis walks on his hands – so a paved rather than a dirt path makes a huge difference, especially in the rainy season. Just imagine having to walk on your hands along a muddy footpath to reach the toilet!
Also, since CWS prioritizes hand-ups and tries to balance them with hand-outs, Yohanis and his brother Mesakh were invited to join other activities as part of our partnership with the family. To start, they joined other farmers to learn about proper chicken-raising. CWS and District Animal Husbandry and Social Affairs Service staff were the technical trainers, after which the family received a rooster and a hen from the Social Affairs Service to help them further improve their family situation.
In talking about the changes in her situation with CWS team members recently, Silpa said simply, “I feel very happy as a parent. [After all these years of dependency and indignity] Younis now can take care of himself.” Separately, Silpa said, “I am also happy the government [is doing its part] to give us the rooster and the hen, which CWS staff have helped [my sons] learn to properly breed.” This all may seem like “too little, too late” to some people; but, for Silpa and her sons, their recent better fortune is a source of hope for the future, however challenging it continues to be.
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