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Papua Partners distributing food after the floods

Leading the response to flash floods in Indonesia

ByClaire Fuller |News |04 April 2019

At Yeomans we are passionate about supporting the life transforming work of various charities and for many of our team, this extends far beyond our day to day work.  Our Fundraising Consultant, Alison Glasspool, has been a Trustee of a small charity called Papua Partners since it began in 2005. 

‘Papua is one of the poorest regions of Indonesia.  Papua Partners is a small charity with two Development Advisors who have been capacity building the indigenous church in Papua, to tackle poverty and injustice.  Their work over the last 12 years has brought funds for development into the region as well as mobilising indigenous churches to engage in their communities, including setting up savings groups.  People who were previously unable to save can now do so, enabling them to invest in education, health and other needs.’

What happened in Papua on 16th March 2019?   

October to April is the rainy season, but during the night of Saturday 16th March torrential rain triggered mudslides and flash floods, bringing devastating loss of life, destroying homes and infrastructure.  Over 100 people died, 70 are missing and over 11,000 had their homes swept away in the town of Sentani where our Development Advisors and their children live.

How were the Papua Partners’ team affected by the floods?

We were directly affected. Our Development Advisors and their family live in the town where the floods hit causing the most damage. The eldest child’s school was used as an emergency centre for those that had lost everything in the immediate aftermath.’

How were Papua Partners able to respond to the immediate need in the region?

Drawing on the networks and information of our team (in situ) and Trustees, we were able to quickly develop our immediate response to the need. As a result of capacity building the organisations we work with, they have the skills required to organise a direct response and manage incoming donations for immediate relief.

On the 19th March there was a mass funeral to grieve those that had died, followed by a mass burial. By the 20th Papua Partners were planning logistics and transferred £3,000 to construct toilets, buy rice cookers, water tanks, and baby milk flasks. On the 21st preparation was complete for welcoming 500 people who had lost loved ones and their livelihoods.

How is Papua Partners continuing to respond now a few days have passed since the disaster?

On the 10th day of looking after more than 500 adults and children at the Bible school, and another 500 next door at the Senior Theological College, our Development Advisor, Naomi, provided an update and said that support from the UK has been incredible and has, without doubt, saved lives and injected hope.

‘There is definitely a feeling of hope, we have tried hard to create a healing and positive space for everybody. We run fun activities for children and craft & knitting sessions with the ladies which has been wonderful’ (another Yeomans client suggested knitting is therapeutic for those who have experienced significant trauma).

Women learning to knit

‘The displaced people and our amazing team have had groups in charge of data, food, rubbish, health, logistics etc….and we are proud of the unity and spirit that has been created.  Every day brings its sadness which can be overwhelming.

Today we have been helping the social ministry connect with people who have lost family members to provide financial aid. The victims have to jump through hoops, providing documents lost or destroyed in the floods. 55 families staying in our location have lost family members.

We are also planning with church leaders on the ‘what next ?’ Over the last few days people whose houses were flooded are moving home to clean and try and start again. We are returning people to their villages (by small aircraft) if they want to, to recuperate and be with family. Amazingly, the Government are paying for most of these flights. However, some want to stay in the city as children are at school here and they have been here for many years.   

We think we will still have about 300 families from the worst hit villages that we continue to support, those that lost houses and the village no longer exists and are mainly people who are from the GIDI church.  We are helping three different church congregations to set up semi-permanent camps where families can live until land can be purchased by the government to relocate them. In these three locations people will start to become more independent, cook for themselves and we will help with income generation activities so they can start to stand on their own and prepare for the future.  

The next stage of the response continues to be vital, this is when life for everybody else starts to get back to normal and the sense of emergency wears off…For those that have lost everything this can be really risky as they have no stability, no income and health and family life can start to deteriorate.’  

What are the continuing needs from Papua Partners as the flood waters continue to recede?

Naomi asks for people to pray for them as they look for the best way to support these families and the churches and communities.  They hope to help people end up in a better position than they were before – stronger, more resilient, so they become positive examples for others.  

The Papua Partners team and those they work with are also exhausted, tired and emotional, they ask for prayers that they get time to relax and for more people to join them bringing additional energy to help with the next stages of the clear up.

Papua Partners are extremely grateful for the prayers and financial support they’ve received and recognise that without this they would never have been able to respond in the way they have done.

If you would like to find out more about Papua Partners, their Sentani appeal and their response to the flooding please visit their website

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