This has been a long time coming… The Access Life Team has been waiting for a shipment of wheelchairs for over a year. More importantly, there are many people with disabilities here in Bali that have been waiting for the wheelchairs.
Lisa, Ash, Daniel, and Pak David have been working hard signing papers, sending letters, seeking signatures, jumping through hoops, and cutting through endless red tape. It has been a frustrating process, but we are happy to tell you that the wheelchairs were delivered to our storage building last week!
The team gathered at scheduled dropoff time of 9am to help unload 550 wheelchairs. 9am came and went… We got word that the customs officials had ‘important matters’ to handle at the airport, so we waited some more. Then we were told they would come around 1pm… finally at about 3pm, five big trucks arrived full of the long awaited cargo.
Although it was really hard work, the time went by quick with lots of smiles and joking. After two trips down to the harbor to unload the container, all the wheelchairs were in the storage building, the doors were sealed by customs officials for a mandatory two day waiting period, and we all headed home at around 9pm.
It was a long, tiring, great day!
In Tinga-Tinga, the pipes have all been installed. The taps and valves all connected to individual homes. The water flows continually… lots and lots of water. This is a really big change for this little village on the edge of the national forest.
I remember during those first days when the pipes were newly installed. Anytime we connected a new tap, a small crowd would gather with buckets and containers. Maybe they didn’t really believe that these new water taps would always have water. There are several water taps about 1.5 kilometers from Tinga-Tinga that have water flowing about twice a week for only 1-2 hours at a time. When the water comes on, the word spreads via text messages and good old fashioned yelling, and then the ladies come from all around with their buckets. They line up and hope the water will keep running long enough for them to get a bucket full.
As people in Tinga-Tinga started getting used to having the water right outside of their homes, the crowds would no longer gather because they started to trust the pipe network installed by ALB. One day, we were adjusting some of the connections near some homes, and I was crouching down beside a tap that was shooting out water. The pressure was way too high and we were trying to adjust it so it would be easier to use. Several ladies came out to say thank you to Pak Nyoman and me.
One of the ladies said something that I won’t soon forget… “I’m so glad we have this water right near my house. Now I won’t be bald in the dry season anymore!” I was a little confused. She saw my confusion and went on to explain that much of the hair on top of her head would fall out because of the many buckets of water she had to carry on her head. The other ladies added their stories of how their lives will be so much easier and healthier now that there is a consistent source of clean water right at their homes.
Thanks for your part in helping ALB provide water (and a full head of hair) to the hardworking ladies of Tinga-Tinga.
“We don’t care if they oppose us. We’ll dig while carrying swords if we have to!”
– Local Tinga-Tinga resident
Swords? Really? Yes, really. In order to understand the urgency of the preceding quote, you need to understand a bit about a place called Tinga-Tinga. It is a village in northwest Bali, far away from any tourist attractions or population centers. It is right along the sea and the land rises quickly into hills and mountains split by valleys. Most of the valleys only have a dry riverbed at the bottom, but in one of these valleys, there is a small river that flows. It is protected by a Balinese water conservation group and provides a lot of water for the rice fields closer to the ocean. Locals are not allowed to take any water from the river except for what they can carry in a bucket.
A small community of about 60 families in Tinga-Tinga is located right along one of these dry riverbeds. They have been struggling to obtain a reliable water source for as long as most of the people can remember. It is incredibly dry and hot. Poverty is widespread.
After a lot of unfulfilled promises from the government and other organizations, this small community finally thought ALB was going to provide the solution. People were excited. After an initial survey, we were excited too about the drastic difference we could accomplish for this community with some very simple solutions.
Our plan was simple: dig a well and allow gravity to pipe the water 1.5 kilometers to a small network of pipes and tanks for the community. An agreement to buy land for the well was signed, the village leaders gave their approval, and all was going very smoothly. Then the problems started…
The local water conservation group came in and opposed the community’s plan to dig a well. They made a “new” rule which made the planned well unfeasible. This group has been solely in charge of the water in Bali for over 900 years (you can read more about them by clicking here), so most people, government leaders, and communities are unwilling to mix it up with them.
The community was mad. Their dream of locally accessible water was falling apart again. They appealed to several local and regional leaders and councils, but they couldn’t get the decision reversed. They called Pak Nyoman, the water project supervisor for ALB, and wanted him to come and oversee the digging of the contested well. They were ready to head to the site and work with shovels in one hand and swords in the other. It was getting to be a serious situation.
Fortunately, we were able to convince the community to look for another solution, and just several days ago, a man from the community wanted to show us a small spring that his family no longer used. He emphasized how small it was, so we weren’t too hopeful that it would be adequate for over 300 people. It was a long, hot walk along a dry riverbed and then into a narrow gully. Then there it was, water!
Further testing is needed, but it appears that this “small spring” is actually several separate springs and could be more than adequate to provide for the needs of the entire community.
So everyone is excited again! The work starts next week…
(This is a guest post from a good friend of ALB, Steve Gillard. Steve is a Physiotherapist in Newcastle, Australia.)
On a recent family holiday to Bali I had the great pleasure of catching up with some friends on the Access Life Bali team. Having previously attended on a short term project for mobility, it was wonderful to catch up with past acquaintances such as sisters Mira and Liman. Wheel chair bound in January 2010, but now walking with light supervision only.
It was also challenging and rewarding to come across ‘accidental clients’, such as an 80 year old stroke victim on the north shore, somewhere hear Gerogkak. Essentially bed ridden for 10 years and relying on his 2 sons to carry him out for toileting, we found he has actually had enough recovery of muscle tone for basic mobility.
A wheelchair could be assembled and fitted on the spot by the ALB team, and the broad smile said it all! This one hour of our time has made an enormous impact on the quality of life for our accidental client.
The water project in Sukadana was completed in May, and there was a small ceremony to hand over responsibility for the water to the local community. There were village leaders and government officials that attended and gave short speeches. Jon and Pak David represented Access Life Bali, and they were accompanied by former boxing champion and Olympian, Nemo Bahari (He’s the one with the raised fist in the orange shirt). He is still a famous guy throughout Indonesia, and he was representing a group of businessmen that donated some funding to this project.
There was serious excitement about the fact that water would be pumping up the hill and to the various groups within the community. There are hundreds of people in Sukadana whose lives will be greatly changed for the better! They were very thankful.
However, in communities like Sukadana, where getting water has been a challenge for as long as most can remember, it becomes an entirely new challenge for the community to distribute the water in an equitable way. In the past, obtaining a small amount of water depended on how much money you had and who your friends were. Now all the water is available to everyone equally, regardless of their economic or social standing. This transition can sometimes be a difficult one.
That is why our work in a community does not always stop when a water project is completed. We continue to work with the local leaders to ensure that the water is managed and distributed in a fair and efficient manner. Much responsibility is placed on the group of men that are tasked with managing this new resource, so we will continue to be hanging around Sukadana… offering ideas, giving support, and making sure everything goes smoothly.
Why is the lady in this picture covering up her face? Is she sad, embarrassed, maybe angry? We often like to show pictures of smiling people as they receive their wheelchairs. However, to understand this one you’ll need to know a little more about Indonesian culture, and also, the lady in the wheelchair.
This is Men Kamar (Men has a similar meaning to Mama), she is a sweet lady that lives in the northern part of Bali. Up until several years ago, she was living in the mountains on her own. Despite her age, she diligently walked around her village selling herbal drinks that are very popular here. Then she had an accident that left her unable to walk and was moved to the city to live with her son. Her son is very busy, and Men Kamar would spend many days alone in her bedroom. Because she was so used to interacting with all the people in her village, her new situation was very difficult for her not just physically, but socially and emotionally as well.
When we first met Men Kamar, she seemed very quiet, and we all assumed she was a bit of an introvert. However, when Ibu Kadek and Pak Nyoman seated her in the wheelchair and she began to wheel herself around her house, you could tell that she was starting to realize that life could be better. It took less than five minutes for the transformation… she started wheeling around, telling stories, laughing and making jokes. It was a real privilege to see the real Men Kamar emerging from her shell.
So when we finally asked to take a picture, she tried her best to keep a straight face. It’s important to understand that most Indonesian adults above the age of 40, especially those from more rural areas, will not smile for a formal picture. I am not quite sure about the cultural reasons for this, but it is generally true. They will stand straight, look directly at the camera, but rarely smile.
She completely failed in keeping a straight face. The smile wouldn’t go away. Men Kamar was excited about a life that included talking with her friends as they passed by the front of her house, enjoying the morning sunshine, and finally getting out of that lonely bedroom.
Thanks for helping us bring hope to people in Bali like Men Kamar.
The Tigawasa water project has been finished for nearly two months. On a routine trip out to the village to test water quality and inspect the pipe network, I noticed something different at the water source.
It all started when the men from the village recognized that there was still a lot of water being wasted at several points as it flowed down the mountainside. They also knew that the ladies could use additional water to meet the increasing needs for water used in washing clothes and bathing at the main water tanks. So they bought some cement and pipe fittings, found some leftover pipe from the project, and built a mini-reservoir that feeds into the existing larger reservoirs beside the main water tank. The word is that nearly a hundred people can now gather for washing and bathing without emptying the reservoirs by the main tank.
This may look like just some simple pipe and cement. However, what you are actually looking at in this picture is something we call Appropriate Technology. Access Life Bali always tries to install water systems that use materials and equipment that are available locally, and we also invite the people from the village to work alongside us so that the projects can be locally sustained long after the ALB team is gone. So as we help others to have clean water, in the process we are also empowering a village with the ability and knowledge to help themselves. It’s a win-win. It’s appropriate technology…
p>The project in Tigawasa has been completed recently, and there are hundreds of people now enjoying access to water just several meters from their homes.
Prior to final completion, we tested pipes, pumps, and electricity several times per week. Because they were test runs only, this meant a lot of water being pumped up the mountain that did not necessarily have a place to be stored. It was awesome to see the people from the village swarm to the pipes with their buckets, pots, and containers. It was like a big party… Kids were taking baths, people were laughing, and really enjoying the fact that hundreds of gallons of water were available without a long walk down the mountainside.
On the fourth of October, the village had the official ceremony at the bale banjar (community gathering place). It was a formal occasion to mark the completion of the project along with the transferring of responsibility from Access Life Bali to the people of Tigawasa. There were representatives from the local government offices, the Australian Consulate, the ALB team, along with a journalist from RRI (Radio Republic Indonesia).
After the formal ceremony, there was a religious ceremony to dedicate the site of the main water tank. Water has a big spiritual significance in Bali, and the priests came to do all the appropriate offerings. It was a complex process and small offerings had to be carried up the mountainside to all the tanks and pipes. As the offerings were being distributed, the rest of the people enjoyed a traditional Balinese meal complete with lawar (pig meat along with other ‘additions’), cooked jackfruit, and starfruit leaves.
It was a great day in Tigawasa! They had lots of thanks for the work and perseverance of the Access Life Bali team along with everybody that supports the work of ALB.
On a side note, one of the more popular parts of the Tigawasa project was the construction of some very basic shower heads and clothes washing stations. It only consisted of two large overflow reservoirs with 6 raised faucets and three raised surfaces to do washing. It was sort of an afterthought on our part, but it proved to be a big hit. People started coming from other areas to take a shower and wash clothes. On several afternoons, there were over a hundred people waiting, washing, and hanging out.