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Indonesia: Youth Volunteerism in The Aftermath of a Triple Disaster

Indri, 25, from Indonesia, has always been passionate about HIV and AIDS. In a country where children do not openly speak about sexual and reproductive healthcare with their parents, Indri was fortunate to be raised in a more open family. This helped to grow her interest in advocating for sexual and reproductive rights, and gave her the courage needed to speak out.

On 28 September last year, Indri was at a roadside café with friends in her seaside hometown of Palu, on the island of Sulawesi when at around 7:30pm, a very large earthquake struck the island. Motorbike riders immediately fell to the road, and chaos ensued. Indri panicked for her father, who lived only metres from the ocean – in Indonesia, people know that if there is an earthquake, a tsunami will likely follow.

As everyone raced towards higher ground, Indri instead went looking for her father. After some time and without finding him, she had no choice but to retreat to higher ground and safety for the night. Four more earthquakes occurred throughout that evening. She waited until 5am, then immediately rushed to look for her dad, and amid tears of relief, found him safe and well.

A desire to give back

But many people were not so fortunate. The official death toll from the disasters (the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami) surpassed 2,000 people.  However, with the added blow of liquefaction – where the land turns to mud and swallows everything beneath it burying people alive – the actual death toll is believed to be over 3,000.

Indri felt a huge sense of gratitude that she was safe, and the desire to give back. “I told myself, I’m still able to undergo activities, still have my arms and legs, so why don’t I use it to help people in need? Who else will help them if there are not people who care about the lives of friends affected by this disaster?”

Our local Member Association, the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association, put the call out for youth volunteers needed to provide counselling on reproductive health as well as HIV and AIDS as part of our humanitarian response.

Care is not only a right, it is essential

When Indri received the call she thought, “this activity is noble; I can help others this way. I already have knowledge about HIV and AIDS from my campus organisation at university. So now, I can share this knowledge that I have with peers around my age so that they can protect themselves for the sake of their future.”

Limited access to accurate information and opportunities makes young people vulnerable to poor sexual and reproductive health. Humanitarian situations – especially conditions inside displacement camps – can worsen these risks.

Indri now travels from camp to camp educating young people on HIV and AIDS. In her own time, she even creates posters to make the sessions more interesting and interactive. This peer to peer education method ensures that through our Member Association, we can provide quality information to young people in a non-judgemental environment. In the aftermath of emergencies such as this triple disaster in Indonesia this type of care is not only a right, it is essential.