Filia runs with her tiny feet along the small ridges of a salt pond as if it‘s an open road for her.
It’s only a couple of hours before the sun will set, and the pond is already silent. On a typical day, the 2-mile stretch of salt ponds would be busy with salt farmers working till nightfall. But it has been raining for several days, so there isn’t much salt to harvest today. The only noises heard across the expanse of glassy land come from Filia and her peers playing alongside the pond that the Compassion center manages.
So why is a Compassion center managing a salt pond?
Empowering Caregivers and Communities
Around the world, the local churches Compassion partners with work to release children, families and communities from poverty. So beyond just holistically caring for children, they look for ways to empower caregivers as well, knowing that every tool they give parents to escape from poverty paves the way for their children’s brighter futures. Some centers offer training on income-generating activities so caregivers can better support their children and even begin to help others around them escape from poverty’s grip as well.
When a local church wants to launch a project like this to help local caregivers, they apply to Compassion for the funding, submitting a proposal explaining the need, cost and purpose. These requests can then be funded through the Gift Catalog or other types of donations to Compassion.
Salt to the Rescue
When the pandemic hit Filia’s community in 2020, many people lost their jobs and incomes. Caregivers of children in Compassion’s program were no longer able to work jobs in construction, truck driving or other common, local industries.
But salt is a highly sought-after commodity from the coastal hamlet where Filia lives. So when the local church saw caregivers in need of income, they saw an opportunity to teach caregivers salt-farming techniques. After applying for and receiving funding, the center was able to purchase the equipment and material needed to prepare salt-farming land.
Bagus, Filia’s father, is a seasoned fish and salt farmer. When the Compassion center initiated the salt pond farmers group, he volunteered to teach the 10 caregivers who would work on the land and benefit from the produce of the pond. Bagus currently oversees the 7,500-meter expanse of salt ponds. Though the group began with very little knowledge of salt farming, with mentoring and profit-sharing, led by Bagus, they have honed their new skills. Their households can now meet their basic needs thanks to the extra income generated by this program.
Giving as He Received
As for Bagus himself, he has not financially benefited, as the profit was shared equally. Because salt is a valuable commodity, Bagus has remained financially stable throughout the pandemic, and he has continued to earn what he usually generated before starting the program. But out of a generous heart, he has taken on the additional work of mentoring and managing the group of new farmers. He went the extra mile to help them, sharing what he could — his skills and expertise.
Besides sharing technical insights about land cultivation, Bagus also leads regular prayer meetings with the caregivers he serves. “I just hope I can be a blessing to the others around this village,” says Bagus.
Filia loves to spend time with her father. That’s why she quickly found her way to her father’s workplace. When she’s not doing house chores or schoolwork, she spends her free time at the shack near the pond, playing with other kids while her father works. At 8 years old, Filia dreams of working in the fashion industry, a dream that perfectly fits her confident attitude. Since her registration at 3 years old, the Compassion center has supported Filia and her education needs.
Bagus sees the local Compassion center as a blessing to the community. It has existed for more than 20 years in this village. “I can see the difference between the children who were registered in the project and who weren’t. They have better attitudes and academic success,” says Bagus.
With the Compassion center looking out for them, Bagus can rest assured about his daughter’s growth and development, allowing him to join Compassion’s work and give to others as he has received.
Being Salt and Light
Compassion Indonesia doesn’t just provide for families financially. They have also laid out a family discipleship program to equip caregivers to care for their families spiritually and emotionally. Through facilitators, all children’s caregivers are equipped with faith-building activities and meetings, empowering them to practice Bible teaching to their kids independently. Bagus has embodied this spirit of discipleship through his mentorship with the salt pond program.
Even now, the salt pond farmers are producing a great harvest every dry season, supplying them all with extra income to navigate the lasting effects of the pandemic. “I see that many households are helped by the salt farm program; it’s wonderful,” says Bagus.
Filia is proud of her father. She always prays for him in her daily prayers. “I pray my father has success in his work; may God give him a long and healthy life,” says Filia earnestly.
More than two decades since the establishment of the Compassion center in this village, the staff and parents are now the baton holders of God’s work in the community. Staff members are empowering caregivers, and generous caregivers like Bagus are in turn blessing others around them, faithfully fulfilling their callings as salt and light to their community.
Words and photos by Hutama Limarta, Compassion Indonesia photojournalist.