An Update on Sumatra

Over the past week, I have done little else but raise money, answer emails for customers, speak to the media make connection between aid groups, keep in touch with the farmers, watch international news and web broadcasts, and, frankly, pray for the folks affected by the tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and elsewhere. We have collected over ten thousand dollars so far, stitched together from twenty dollar contributions as well as some larger giving on the website. In my fevered focus, I have not followed up here to keep people informed as to what's going on. For this I apologize to all of our customers and readers who have answered the call to help the farmers of Sumatra.

So here goes… We are wiring the money directly to the PPKGO farmers cooperative headquarters in Medan, which is the second largest city (now I guess the largest) in the north of Sumatra. Our farmers also bring their coffee down to Medan to ship to U.S. ports. The road to the airport and the seaport was cut by the earthquake, but has since been reopened and is one of the main avenues for aid to get into north Sumatra for trucking to Aceh four hours away to the west. The money we have raised is being used to help relief efforts for coffee growers and their families in the Takengon coffee region, as well as, providing emergency aid to the most severely affected areas in Aceh Province. Currently the areas identified as having the greatest needs for relief work are in the coastal areas of Banda Aceh in the north and Bireun on the east coast. In addition, we are sending money to a child protection and advocacy organization we know and respect in Medan and Aceh, to be used to locate the parents and extended families of some of the 30,000 displaced children in the area, and to provide protection for some of the children from child traffickers and other predators.

So here's the plan, as outlined by the farmers themselves:

Immediate/Emergency Relief Efforts Will Address:

  • Collection and delivery of rice, fresh vegetables, sarongs and blankets for people in Banda Aceh and Bireun where immediate relief needs are the greatest.
  • Provision of temporary shelter to those people who lost their homes in the coffee growing area of Takengon as a result of the earthquakes.
  • Child protection and reparation.

The current immediacy is for food, shelter, medicines and child protection. When these immediate needs are alleviated, and if resources permit, relief efforts will later expand to include the following activities.

  • Repair of water systems in coffee growing communities to ensure clean water supplies (we have built water systems in eleven communities and some of them have been disrupted by the earthquakes).
  • Reconstruction of homes in Takengon coffee growing communities.

The PPKGO's Direct Mobilization Efforts to Date:

  • Immediately after the earthquake struck on December 26th, PPKGO and our partnering coffee processor CV Trimaju provided temporary shelter to people in the Gayo Highlands who lost their homes in the earthquake.
  • A search party was sent from Takengon to Banda Aceh to try and locate family members, and especially children from the coffee communities who were attending schools in the Capitol City. Tragically, 13 children of PPKGO members are still missing and presumed to be dead. Many other people are still unaccounted for.
  • Tuesday January 4th, PPKGO and CV Trimaju collected 8 truckloads of rice, fresh vegetables, and other supplies from Takengon and 20 coop members loaded up their trucks and drove down to Banda Aceh to distribute the food and supplies. This was the second round of such deliveries.
  • A delivery of food and supplies was also made to Bireun on Aceh's east coast. With each delivery the members are staying in the area for 3 to 5 days and volunteering their time and labor to help in the relief work.

Child Protection Work:

Child protection has been a need in Aceh and the north for several years, as trafficking in children for sex and labor has been an issue. Children are taken from the streets or bought from destitute parents and sent to work in factories and fish processing plants, used as domestics in Indonesia, Asia and Europe or sold into prostitution.

Early reports I got from the area were that there was an increase in child trafficking, as unscrupulous groups and individuals were taking lost and disoriented children off the streets after the devastation. We don't know how widespread it has been, but the Indonesian government has banned any adoption from the area for now. We have had contact for over a year with two effective and active child protection groups in Aceh and Medan, and visited their offices last year. These dedicated young people (most in their early twenties) work in the courts, in the streets and in the media to protect children and get the world's attention to their plight. The strategy for now is to be in the refugee camps, getting names of kids to try and connect with relatives searching for lost children. Also, it is necessary to guard the camps from predators and check out people claiming to be relatives. Further, teams are searching the area for children that have not made it to the camps or other child welfare centers in Aceh and the surrounding area.

We expect to receive photos and other documentation about the relief efforts shortly and will share these with you on this site as soon as they are available. Thanks for all your donations made to the relief efforts, and for your continued interest, support and solidarity with our friends in Sumatra.

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