Stories of Change

First aid practice as part of the SOLIDARITAS program.

The SOLIDARITAS program reached 7,000 people last year.

Source: Annual Report 2017

It takes a village to prepare for an emergency

Mudslides and localized flooding from heavy rains are a problem for the North Toraja district in Indonesia. Father Yos has concluded that it takes a village – literally – to be prepared to respond. He knows how important it is to maintain coordination, not just among individuals taking action but among groups that are responsible for people’s survival and safety when a disaster strikes, like local government and the Indonesian Red Cross.

Rev. Yosmart Tolede, known as Father Yos, is the coordinator of the emergency responders within North Toraja’s Social Welfare Office. As someone who is active in his community as well as in his church, he longs to help the most vulnerable people who are affected by disaster. According to Father Yos, a disaster is a shared burden, and response is a shared responsibility. Most of that responsibility, in fact, falls 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,” he says.

Fortunately for Father Yos, CWS and the SOLIDARITAS program are there to help him achieve his aims.

Before SOLIDARITAS, no villages in North Toraja were prepared for disasters, and staff from the newly-formed 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 SOLIDARITAS program, which CWS implements with funding from the Australian government, is to improve communication and coordination among communities – especially their leaders, like Pastor Yos – and the government departments and teams from the District Disaster Management Agency and District Social
Welfare Office, among others. As part of our commitment to local partnership in our programs, local North Toraja organization INANTA Foundation is also involved in activity design to bring 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 like a recent disaster simulation held in Likulambe villag are a 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.