Ailing Grandfather Helps Rebuild Homes After Sumatra Quake

Sumatra grandfather

Mr. Mawardi, a 71-year old grandfather from Dama Gadang village on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, built a cottage using his ancient axe, hammer and saw, without any assistance other than a few days when his son visited him. Photo by CRS staff

One of the highlights of working on the CRS transitional shelter program in response to the September 30th earthquake that hit West Sumatra, Indonesia, is the opportunity to see people taking initiative to rebuild their own lives and to help their neighbors. Among the more than 10,000 households in West Sumatra that have received transitional shelter support from CRS during the past four months there are many remarkable success stories.

One particularly inspirational case is that of Mr. Mawardi, a 71-year old grandfather from Dama Gadang village who suffers from lung disease. He brings a hopeful attitude to whatever happens in life. Though he is frail and alone, he has received very little support from his family or other people around him. But he sees that they also experienced difficulties following the earthquake, so instead of waiting for them to help him, he has helped himself and then looked for ways to serve others.

Sumatra house

Builders in Tanjung Sani, Agam district, work on the construction of an earthquake-resistant, spacious and durable transitional shelter funded through the CRS transitional shelter program. Photo by Josephine Wijiastuti/CRS

For the last twenty years Mr. Mawardi has lived alone, having lost control of his lands in a family dispute, receiving few visits and minimal support from his grown children. Nonetheless, he still tries to be an exemplary father who demonstrates honesty and a big heart. About his situation in life, he says, “I do not envy other people for what they have because maybe it’s not our bread in the first place.” He can’t afford lung treatment, but finds that a morning walk around the village opens up his breathing enough to make it through the day.

Mr. Mawardi worked as a manual laborer for the Indonesian government during the 1950s and 60s. His job was to carry stones for water construction projects in his area. As he watched the skilled artisans building canals and dams, he tried to study what they were doing. After several years, he and some friends pooled their funds to purchase some basic tools and, in hopes of learning something, they offered to help the craftsmen. Half a century later, Mr. Mawardi still has those tools, and after the earthquake hit he was very glad to have them.

CRS came to his community in December and explained its program to provide cash grants and technical assistance to help households, whose homes had been heavily damaged, to quickly build safe and comfortable transitional shelters. Mr. Mawardi was inspired. He attended the technical presentation given by the CRS field team, paying close attention and asking questions. When he went home he studied the poster that the team members gave him, and he asked them construction advice when they came to visit him.

As soon as he received his cash grant, he built himself a cottage using his ancient axe, hammer and saw, without any assistance other than a few days when his son visited him. He used the cash grant to purchase wood and tin roofing. This, combined with what he could salvage from his original house, was enough for him to build a simple new home that is considered by the CRS technical experts to be safe, comfortable and durable. “I’m sad about my life because I am lonely and because of the lung sickness, but I am quite happy to have a cottage to live in, and this is enough for me.”

Even so, the moment he finished building his own shelter, he went to a neighbor that has a small child and offered to help her to build her home. He said that he did this with full sincerity and pleasure and he just wanted to help out. Furthermore, he does not think he is deserving of payment since he is not an actual artisan. “I’m still learning until now, just think of it as alms from me,” he said.

Reported by CRS Indonesia staffers Josephine Wijastuti and Kathryn Kraft

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2 Responses to “Ailing Grandfather Helps Rebuild Homes After Sumatra Quake”

  1. Aik Jogjakarta Says:

    Amazing..!!!!!! great work

  2. Ibrahim Says:

    I want to express my sincere appreciation for the efforts that CRS doing it to serve the humanity around the world
    i think to give some one a chance to live even for one day its great job.

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