West Sumba Island in Indonesia is blessed by its natural resources. Tall trees, fertile soil, mountains, and beaches fill the land. But although it looks like a lush paradise, poverty is still severe in this part of the island, and the villagers struggle to have clean water.
“The Marada Kalada village community is characterized by low access to clean water, low sanitation, low rate of education, high malaria cases, high rate of baby mortality, and crime,” says Pastor Benyamin from a local church in West Sumba.
Traditionally, West Sumba homes are built on top of the hills, but the water sources are typically located in the valleys. Families build their homes on the higher ground because village wars still often happen today. Tribes and households can be engaged in long feuds, so they build on the more easily defensible high ground.
The men of West Sumba love to carry swords with them all the time. If they don’t have their sword, they feel naked and insecure.
“I like to carry my sword everywhere I go. It is part of my identity and pride,” says Lendemalo, age 65, one of the eldest in the village.
Wearing a sword is the sign that you are one of the warriors of the family. Warriors are always ready to defend their families and houses, just like in ancient times when villages were often at war with other villages.
Because of these village wars, families struggle to access water. From the rivers in the valleys they have to carry water up to their homes on the hills.
All family members, including small children, are responsible for carrying water home from the water sources. Because they don’t have much, they use the water very carefully, only to cook and wash the dishes. They bathe and wash clothes at the river.
Children’s hygiene is often neglected, as they can’t bathe or wash their hands as often as they need to. Health issues like skin diseases are common among people because of the lack of clean water.
This is where the church steps in.
Pastor Benyamin has been leading the church in Marada Kalada village, West Sumba, Indonesia, since 2002. Along with his wife and two little daughters, Pastor Benyamin moved to Mondomia from Waitabula. The people of Mondomia recognize him as part of the local community and he knows their customs.
Pastor Benyamin’s church began partnering with Compassion in 2006 to respond to the many needs of the families. After several years of partnership, Pastor Benyamin realized there was a chance to work with Compassion through the Complementary Interventions Program (CIV) to help the church build a water installation, bringing clean water to the water tank at the church.
He hoped that the people around the church and others in the village would have closer access to clean water. He also wanted the church to set an example of how to live a healthy life.
There are springs located at the lot behind the church. It belongs to a native Sumbanese family. For a long time, the springs were considered sacred by the community. The people were worried that if they used the water a bad spirit would haunt them, so they would use other water sources near the river.
But the owner has allowed the church to use it as long as they need, with no time limit. This family is willing to give the privilege to the church because they respect the church as a religious institution and they know that the church will use it for good.
“We were pleased to hear the plan of the church to use the water to help the church and the children,” shared a mother who has one of her children registered at the child development center.
The water installation project began in August 2010. Parents of Compassion sponsored children worked hand in hand, volunteering to build the water installation. They built a permanent well at the spring and a concrete water tank at the church.
“Parents of the development center children are willing to give their times in the water installation project, they are happy to help the church,” says Pastor Benyamin.
The water tank was placed on a high hill supported by the tower. Gravity helps the water to run down to the concrete water tank below, next to the church building. Currently the water use is limited to Compassion-assisted children and church activities.
The church is still working to design a support system that will maintain the water pump and help pay the electric bill. In the future, the church hopes to make the water available to the community so they have easier access to clean water.
“Soon this will benefit families, but also invite them to be part of the development center too,” says Pastor Benyamin.
In the meantime, the water tank is helping the children to practice good hygiene at the center. Before children were taught to wash their hands, but the teaching remained just head knowledge because water wasn’t available at the church. Now the mentors and children can together apply the good habit of washing their hands.
“Thank you to CIV for its water intervention program. I’m glad that Compassion cares to help children by bettering their lives through this program,” says Pastor Benyamin.
With 240 children registered at this child development center, Pastor Benyamin knows this project will impact not only children but also their families. Many of the parents are unbelievers, but they still allow the church to take care of their children. CIV has furthered the ministry of the Mondomia Christian Church to bless and reach out to this community.