Project Child Indonesia Collaborate with Alumni Grant Scheme #1

This article is the first in a tri-series that provides a holistic demonstration of how Project Child Indonesia implemented and conducted a Drinking Water Program in the remote region of Fakfak in Indonesia’s Papua.

Project Child Indonesia (PCI) is an independent, community-based organisation working out of Yogyakarta City in East Java. As an organisation PCI seeks to alleviate poverty in the coastal and riverside communities of Indonesia through the prism of education, and is underpinned by a central vision: for every child in Indonesia to have the opportunity to learn, to have a healthy start, and to feel supported and secure living in a clean environment that is prepared for natural disasters.

A driving force in the pursuit of this vision is PCI’s Drinking Water Program (DWP). The DWP involves installation of water filter infrastructure in schools and the provision of reusable drinking bottles to students, coupled with educational programs to substantiate the filter infrastructure. These educational programs are underpinned by themes of environment and health, and their interconnections, to promote awareness and concern of these issues.

Through functioning, the DWP seeks to intervene and counter the poverty cycle through three lenses: ecological, health, and economic. The filter infrastructure provides children access to clean drinking water, and enables them to use reusable water bottles, leading to a reduction in plastic waste, and hence a direct ecological impact. Improved student health is achieved through the increased access to clean drinking water, coupled with the educational programs that facilitate student understanding of the importance of staying hydrated and avoiding sugary drinks. Finally, through the provision of free drinking water at schools, money spent by parents purchasing water bottles will be severely reduced, opening up limited income to other necessities.

Since 2016 PCI’s DWP has reached approximately 7091 people through it’s implementation in 37 partner schools. However PCI didn’t want to stop there, and wondered whether it’s model of the DWP was bound to Java by geographical context. An idea began to develop and evolve: was the DWP model transferrable to remote areas (where access to clean drinking water is less, and more expensive), and could it function with minimal supervision? Having witnessed the direct benefit derived through the DWP, PCI believed it could.

Enter Fakfak, a town of approximately 13,000 people in the Fakfak Regency of Indonesia’s Papua. Residing in one of Indonesia’s most remote areas, Fakfak is accessible only by boat or plane, with infrequent service and high costs associated to that service. The remoteness and access difficulty has one significant detrimental effect for those living in Fakfak, things are expensive… really expensive, and wages don’t compensate. To put things into perspective a little, while a simple meal of nasi ayam (chicken and rice) in Yogyakarta may cost around 10-12,000 Rupiah, that cost skyrockets to around 40-45,000 Rupiah in Fakfak! That’s a near 400% increase in the cost of a human necessity, food. This is also seen in regard to another basic human necessity, water. Where again in Yogyakarta a student may pay around 500 Rupiah for one water bottle, that same student would have to pay between 1-2000 Rupiah for the same bottle in Fakfak. These bottles are always single-use plastic bottles and represent the cheapest option for people in Fakfak! An even cheaper and more exciting option for students in Fakfak is high sugar content drinks. In Fakfak it is common that the cost of a can of coke will be cheaper than that of a glass of ice tea! When presented with these two options, who wouldn’t choose the can of coke?  Access to clean drinking water in Fakfak is limited, and associated costs high, the environment, people’s health, and economic capacity suffer as a result of this.

Another motivating factor behind PCI’s desire to work collaboratively in Fakfak is the government’s lack of capacity in regard to education and the deliverance of adequate resources for education in Fakfak. It is no indictment on the schools, but the struggle to provide students with an appropriate education that covers themes such as personal health and wellbeing, and the environment, reflect the lack of resources provided to those schools by the government. Environmental awareness is very limited in Fakfak, as it has been something missing from educational curriculums, and without awareness, concern cannot result. It is only through awareness and subsequent concern that personal change in regard to our behaviours toward, and perceptions of, the environment will result. It’s not that people do not care (and the desire from community members in Fakfak to work collaboratively with PCI to implement the program is a testament to the fact that they DO care) it’s that those that maybe seem not to, haven’t been provided with the adequate opportunity to develop that care. However within the lack of resources that characterises much of the education system in Fakfak exists an intense motivation on behalf of local teachers, and the governments understanding of its limited capacity and a subsequent openness to collaboration with organisations.

With the limited access to clean drinking water, the inflated costs associated with that access (those inflated costs characterising all basic needs), a lack of government resources directed towards environmental and health education (and the subsequent environmental and health issues), but an understanding by the government of their lack of capacity and a subsequent a desire an openness from them to work collaboratively to counter these issues, PCI was presented with an opportunity.

With the support from the Australian Government through the Alumni Grant Scheme administered by the Australia Awards in Indonesia, PCI have the opportunity to bring the program to this remote area, and to engage a community that would benefit from the program. PCI eagerly took up the challenge and set about the initial developments and adaptations of its drinking water program to the local context of Fakfak.

Atin Prabandari, the Advisor at Project Child Indonesia receive fund from the Australian Government through the Alumni Grant Scheme and administered by the Australia Awards in Indonesia. The views expressed within this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Embassy Indonesia, Australia Awards in Indonesia and Australia Global Alumni.