Project  Divisions Disaster Relief Response Disaster Relief at Mt. Merapi Volcano

Disaster Relief at Mt. Merapi Volcano

Disaster Relief at Mt. Merapi Volcano

A team of five members of Family Care Indonesia left for the camp sites that had been set up Merapi volcano victims and evacuees early Monday morning November 1st. The team was mobilized just six days after the first eruption and had the privilege of basing out of a friend’s house near a refugee camp about nine kilometers from the top of mount Merapi.

According to local officials, one of the greatest needs in the camps for the Internally Displaced Persons, as the evacuees and victims are called, is encouragement and inspiration as these people have left everything behind to flee for safety. Our FCI team has been focusing on just such a motivational program and their puppet show is a favorite in the camps. Along with the show, the team does songs, games and activities with the children which is helping to bring joy and happiness to all despite the problems and hardships.

FCI members began their program at the first camp they visited which was set up at a local school and had over 1,000 people. The team continued their program in several more camps over the next few days.

On November 4th the volcano began to erupt continuously with a very large eruption lighting up the night sky. On the 5th, there was yet another eruption—this one sending ash into the air six kilometers high with dust traveling as far as Bandung in West Java. Due to the large amount of volcanic ash, our team had to quickly evacuate and move to a safer location outside the 15 kilometer limit, leaving the puppet show and other materials behind temporarily. Later, as the eruptions continued, this safety limit was extended to 20 kilometers.

During this time, our team started a trash pickup program with the children in the camp which helped involve the children in a useful project and gave them something to do. FCI volunteers also helped in the food kitchens which were serving three meals a day to the DPIs and began giving basic medical care to the children and adults for cuts and sores on their feet and legs as well as injuries and sprains received from their quick evacuation.

Volunteers also spent a night sleeping on a dusty, ash-covered floor in the camp with hundreds of displaced persons, lights remaining on all night for safety. Everyone woke up with soot and ash on their faces and in their mouths and sand grinding in their teeth. Despite the many hardships they were enduring, it was very moving to see the positive attitude and unity of the people in the camp.

Fortunately, the puppet show materials were retrieved and the puppet shows were back as the team worked to inspire, entertain and encourage the children with motivating puppet shows, games, music and even a lively game of soccer when possible!

While we had audiences captivated, our friend, Pak Panji, used the one of the puppets to talk to the children about the importance of cleanliness and properly disposing of trash. Over the next two days, the FCI team were on the move doing puppet shows and activities in several more camps.

On November 10th, the last morning of this trip and at the special request of a very good friend, the puppet team performed at a school in Yogjakarta for children, teachers and parents.. This particular show proved to be wonderfully successful as a fundraiser for victims of the Merapi eruptions.