Healing in Serving
10 Jun 2019
#SatuHatiUntukSulteng - When the 7.4 magnitude quake triggered liquefaction in Central Sulawesi, Ilmawati experienced the most harrowing day of her life. Right before her eyes, two children died.
“It was chaos. There were many aftershocks and the earth kept moving, swallowing people along the way. Two children aged 4 and 5 grabbed my hand while I was running. I was holding both of them until the younger boy suddenly lost his grip. The liquefaction caught him and he was buried alive,” she recalled. She and the other boy panicked and were separated. Few minutes after, she passed by him, dead from a fallen roof. They boys, she later on learned, were brothers.
Two weeks earlier, Ilmawati just moved into her new house in Patobo, one of the badly hit villages by liquefaction. Never in her imagination had she seen what was coming. More than losing all her investments with her husband, the loss of 24 family members hurt her the most.
“There used to be more than 300 people in the village. Only 13 of us made it out alive. In our family, only seven of us survived,” she continued.
Finding healing in serving
She and her husband stayed in an IDP camp in Sidera in the days that followed. When Wahana Visi Indonesia started to set up child-friendly space (CFS) in the camp, she knew she had to volunteer.
“The screams and the faces of the two children who were asking for my help would not leave me. My guilt was eating me, so when I saw children who needed help, I told myself I should do something.”
Ilmawati became one of WVI’s most active volunteers. Along with six other volunteers in the camp, they were trained on CFS facilitation and on child protection.
“I loved seeing the children sing and draw in the CFS tents. When I learned how to provide psychosocial support, I did my best to give it to the more than 80 children entrusted in my care. Doing that also helped me heal,” she added.
Ilmawati is also instrumental in finding the right space for WVI to build a CFS semi-permanent structure when its psychosocial interventions in the camp started to phase out.
When they moved to a huntara (transitional shelter), she stayed true to her promise. At least twice a week, she meets with the children in the CFS building. Along with other facilitators, they also work closely with the women and child protection desk to ensure that community-based child protection mechanism is in place. They facilitate conversations with parents to ensure that children do not get verbally and physically abused. In the huntara where she is the coordinator for 160 households, her initiative also includes raising funds to have a playground for the children, knowing full well how play is important in children’s healing.
“When I was starting, people kept asking why I became the huntara coordinator. I am short and I am a woman but I consistently show them that I have the heart to help,” she said, her face showing both tenderness and the strength of a woman.
There’s no turning back
Now 43, Ilmawati remembers her prayers years back. She wanted to have children.
“Now I have all these children who I consider my own. My plan as the huntara coordinator is to empower fellow women to bounce back. This way, we can provide for the needs of our kids and now always rely on aid,” she said. Since moving to huntara four months ago, she has helped create groups that produce bawang goreng, crackers, and other products. She also helps women to market their products.
“I may not have been able to save those two boys during the earthquake and the liquefaction but I will do my best to help protect their fellow children and help them cope from the experience they had from the disaster,” Ilmawati shared.
Wahana Visi Indonesia, with support from multiple donors, has so far reached more than 7,500 children through child-protection initiatives. WVI also continues to work with the government and other stakeholders to ensure that mechanisms to better protect children, especially in emergencies, are strengthened.
Written by: Joy Maluyo, Communication Manager of CENTRE Wahana Visi Indonesia
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