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Inaugural SWL international humanitarian mission, Indonesia 19-24 February

This week myself and four other amazing women have had the opportunity to travel to Nusa Tengarra Timor (NTT) to visit some of the communities that have been directly impacted by the support that our group provides to the Red Cross societies of Australia and Indonesia.

Initially we met in Jakarta where we participated in discussions with both various arms of the Red Cross, and then with the Deputy Ambassador at the Australian Embassy. It was thrilling to be part of such important and thought provoking conversation. 

We then travelled directly to NTT. The program aimed to address disaster risk reduction as well as decreasing maternal and child mortality as well as nutritional problems. 

Our initial visit was to a maternal and child health support clinic. To see how important the facilities are for these people is just extraordinary. They are just so grateful to have access to this education and support, and to be given the training to then take these skills out to the villages further afield. These people with so little prepared a welcome for us that was just overwhelming. I was taken aback when we pulled up to the village to see hundreds of locals participating in a traditional tribal welcome that I would have assumed was reserved for only the most important dignitaries. By taking a day out from working on their farms to greet us in this manner made me feel incredibly humble.

It was one of the most exhausting, thought provoking, happiest and (definitely the sweatiest!) days of my life. An incredible lesson in gratitude that I’m so lucky to have been a part of. 

The next day visited a rural village in the province of Belu. We saw babies being measured at a clinic that our support helped to create. They mark the babies on a chart that ensures they are within a range stipulated for Asian children by the WHO. If the children are proven to be outside of the range then the village will supply extra protein for them. There is currently 10% malnutrition, and whilst this rate to us seems extraordinarily high, It has actually been dramatically reduced since the creation of the clinic.

We also saw how our funds were used towards disaster risk reduction when we planted some trees (5 were allocated especially for SWL to provide protection against erosion during a time of flood. They were planting 2000 in total.

Again the village turned out in spectacular form to celebrate our arrival and demonstrate how happy they were that we had come to visit. They showed off their clinic with pride and spoke of how they are aiming to bring the malnutrition rate down to zero.

We also witnessed on this day not one, but two, incredible women who chose of their own accord to speak out in front of the entire village about the problems that the village still faces. Difficulty in accessing clean water was a consistent theme that we heard. Anita thanked them for their bravery in coming forward and assured them that their voices had been heard. It is definitely an issue that we can discuss as a potential area for SWL to explore going forward. 

On a personal level I did not find the trip as confronting as I had expected. The outpouring of gratitude, joy and pride from the villages left me feeling positive about our contribution and VERY motivated to do more at home so that we can help more communities like those in NTT. 

Words and photos provided by SWL member Cate White.