Interruptions to the electricity supply are now extremely rare, so tradespeople and others are able to work without having to worry about power cuts.
The telephone system is more and more reliable, and internet access is available at two dedicated centres.
Plans had been agreed to build a new market at the edge of the town near the port, but work on the site has now stopped – one wonders why. Traders have as a result set up shop once again on the site of the old market in the town centre that had been cleared a year ago.
This means that fishmongers who used to have fairly adequate stalls are now selling their wares by a busy crossroads in the dust thrown up by passing traffic – and poultry merchants do the same at another crossroads in similar conditions.
We can only hope that the election of a new Bupati in December may lead to some changes in these areas.
For the first time ever Catherine didn’t make the journey to Nias on her own : she was accompanied by Marie Cleuziou, a member of our Association and the godmother of a young girl there.
Just before leaving for Nias we received a grant of 500 euros from the Crédit Agricole at Changé, who our Association HQ is based, as part of their programme of support for local organisations.
This grant was particularly welcome as we hadn’t received as many donations as in previous years.
The political campaign for the election of the Bupati – roughly equivalent to a French préfet – was in full swing and absorbing local attention, and we couldn’t count on co-operation from officialdom.
We managed to arrange a meeting at the Dinas (social security) office ; they were supposed to be offering support to the family of Firman Laïa, but the representatives we saw clearly had other priorities and weren’t prepared to listen to our concerns. They didn’t even bother to open their files on the case.
On the positive side, Koba spent seven days working with us once again, as he had done during Kati’s previous visit. We are as planned sponsoring the schooling of his daughter Sintiel, who is about to start middle school 1.
Koba invested a great deal of time and energy in our work, and at the end of our stay we decided to open an account in his name at the BRI Bank to enable him to make appropriate interventions in our absence.
He has for example paid for leaving certificate exam entries late last December for four upper school students ; and as had been previously arranged promptly sent us copies of relevant receipts from the school administrations concerned.
Last year we had helped out two craftsmen in difficult situations, and we returned to see how things were progressing.
Sarofa Nölö had been able to build breeze-block walls and to roof his house with corrugated iron thanks to grants from our Association ; his family now has basic shelter from the elements.
We have continued to pay for the schooling of his daughter Opimel, who has just started her first year at upper school.
Semuda’s wife, who had been very gravely ill last year, is now in somewhat better health. We have continued to support the education of their daughter Arnitas, who is currently in her second year at upper school, and we have committed to maintaining this support till she completes her secondary education, and to pay the fees for her leaving certificate examinations – the equivalent of the French baccalauréat or English A levels – which are regrettably expensive.
Iningot, one of the little girls from the camp, is now with her family in Jakarta.
Cindy Ketrin, who has been sponsored for the last five years by Lucette, was sent – much against her wishes – to stay with her sister in Yogyakarta. Kati was able to talk with her at length ; she was downhearted about having had to leave her mother and her friends, but her sister didn’t seem keen to let her return to Nias.
Rina has left for Sumatra with her mother, and didn’t complete the school year. We had been sponsoring her education.
Waldirman and his grandfather no longer live in Teluk Dalam, and we weren’t able to get any information about their current whereabouts.
This year we sponsored the schooling of ten pupils from the Hilia’naa camp.
Several families whom we have been in touch with since 2005 have now moved out of the camp to live closer to the centre of Teluk Dalam ; only three of the families we have been supporting still remain in the camp itself. We had to make enquiries in order to track down the others in town.
Four of the ten pupils are at primary school – the same four as last year.
Yusnita is due to start middle school in July 2011 ; in the meantime she is attending the local Islamic school with her great friend Silviani.
Two are at middle school.
Ikhlas is now in second year ; his mother has opened a small shop in the camp.
Four are at upper school : Three of these are due to leave school in June 2011 – which raises the issue of how we can best support them into higher education.
Suterlina will finish her upper school course in June. She is 22 years old, and is now in good health after recovering from TB. We are very unlikely to be able to support her through higher education.
As noted above Cindy Ketrin is at Yogyakarta, and we don’t know what plans her family has for the start of the new school year in July.
Kiki Fatmala will finish middle school this year. She and her family are considering the possibility of her transferring to the Islamic upper school at Gunug Sitoli in the north of the island. She has relatives in the town, and the quality of the education there is reputed to be higher than anything on offer at Teluk Dalam.
Firman L has had major problems with some of the local market traders as a result of unfounded allegations that he was responsible for cutting or diverting the course of a water channel. He was badly beaten up, and fled to Batam, an Indonesian island near Singapore, in the aftermath of the assault. We were extremely anxious about his safety there, given Batam’s unsavoury reputation as a sex industry and drugs trade mecca. Kati discussed the potential risks he was running with his mother and did her best to persuade her that her son needed to return ; we eventually managed to contact him by phone, and a fortnight later he was back home.
He didn’t want to take up his middle school place again after all this palaver ; his attainment levels will be evaluated by the inspectorate, and if all goes well he will be able to start upper school in July of this year.
We are sorry to have to report that we have had to terminate our support for Suci Hati’s studies at Teluk Dalam University.
Suci’s commitment had been uneven and her results had been poor – and she had moreover told us some tall tales about her educational expenses. We arranged to meet Suci and explained our decision to her at what turned out to be a highly charged meeting (Marie is her godmother).
Suci had resigned from a post as primary school teacher when we sponsored her university matriculation ; we hope she will be able to find another teaching post as soon as possible.
We have been supporting three other young people at middle school. Depi Hati and Hettin will complete their courses there this year ;
Depi like Desti has been sponsored by pupils at Bouloire.
Helviani, Firman’s younger sister, is in her second year.
Six upper school students have been on our books this year.
Fitri and Elvira are in their first year.
Yantiani, Firman’s big sister, and Aswidiatuti are in their second year.
Derma Wati and Adrian Stefen are due to complete their course this year, and we have paid their leaving certificate examination fees. We will need to take a decision on whether to continue to support them into higher education.
The grant from the Crédit Agricole enabled us to make a one-off grant to Nur Intam, a young woman from Bawomatalowo who is in the second year of a degree course in English at Teluk Dalam University.
Diman and Iman, however, live in the camp at Hilia’naa and haven’t been able to find employment, and their parents aren’t in any position to borrow money to support their children’s further education.
A decision on whether we can support them into university will need to be on the agenda at our 2011 General Assembly.
As well as getting signatures on the Association contracts, we took advantage of the opportunity to get feedback from families and to discuss plans for the future.
She had been buried in woodland under a simple earth mound ; this year members of our Association decided that it would be appropriate to mark her resting place with a proper tomb. The work was completed just before Kati and Marie left.
We will organise a little ceremony in her memory with her family and friends next year.
They raised a total of 370 euros ; this sum will be handed over at a special presentation ceremony in April which we expect to be reported in the local press (the article will be published on our website).
Three school girls from Nias will benefit from this fundraising ; after consulting with the children from Bouloire we have decided to continue to support the same young people as before – Desti at primary school, Depi Hati who will be starting at upper school this year, and Rosalina, who is at university.
These visits are essential ; they help us to maintain close contact with families, to listen to their perspective on things, and to identify and address any problems.
Kati plans to return to Nias in October 2011 as part of our ongoing mission there.
We hope that our collaboration with Koba will be productive, and that we will gradually be able to increase his responsibilities.