Czech group raises funds to help earthquake-struck Indonesia


The relief effort after the earthquake that shook Indonesia last month, killing and injuring thousands, has drawn the support of governments, charities and individuals the world over, including many here in the Czech Republic. Tenggara, a group of Czech friends of Indonesia, is currently trying to raise funds for a small-scale relief project they hope to launch in Java. They held a benefit event on Tuesday evening, featuring traditional Indonesian music and dance.

Immediately after last month's devastating quake, millions of dollars in emergency aid poured into Indonesia, which was still trying to recover from the deadly December 2004 tsunami that claimed up to 200,000 victims and inflicted billions in damage. As large-scale international relief projects are being coordinated, smaller groups like Tenggara are trying to help at a more interpersonal level, says one of the event's Czech organizers, Sona Cermakova.

We are trying to find financial means that we would send to Indonesia, to help people of Jogjakarta, which we completely love because it's the city of culture and city of intellectuals. And because we are not a big organization, we would like to focus on small-scale projects, post-traumatic treatments, and we will also focus on reconstructing some school. But it's really on a small scale, from person to person.

Tenggara is a civic association that was formed after the 2004 tsunami by Czechs who have fallen in love with Indonesian language and culture and wanted to help out in the wake of the disaster. They collected money and launched a small-scale project in Aceh, one of the worst-hit regions, to help Indonesians overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. At home, they hold cultural events to promote knowledge of and interest in Indonesia.

Several of the group's members were in Indonesia at the time of the quake and participated in the immediate relief effort, drawing upon their own money and resources.

Michaela Rybkova, a PhD student in Indonesian studies at Charles University, was awakened by the earthquake at six in the morning and was forced to flee to the north of Jogjakarta. In the ensuing days, she and other Czechs in Indonesia collected as much money as they could, to meet the immediate needs of those who were injured and displaced.

Photo: CTK
The different charities, they help but it all takes time and the people need the help now. They don't need it in two days because they will catch the flu from being cold, from being in the rain. They had no food, no water - the typical situation after a disaster.

So I called my best friend Bronya who lives in America now, and I told her you know we desperately need some money, and she said okay I will send my friends emails and in one week I will tell you the money. And I said, Bronya, I need the money now, not in one week, because the people will die if they get the help in one week. In two hours she managed to get one thousand dollars. She collected from her friends, family, everybody; she just went on the phone and they promised to give it to her. So on Monday morning, we had nine million rupees, which is quite a lot of money to buy the basic things.

Another Tenggara member, Martin Tocik, is in currently working in Java as a volunteer for the Czech non-governmental organization, People in Need. He describes the mood among relief workers and Indonesians as optimistic, but says there is still much left to be done.

Now the city of Jogjakarta itself looks quite ordinary and perhaps 99% of the services are back to normal, but it is rather different in the south and east from the city, especially in Bantul and Klaten districts. For example in Bantul, there are perhaps tens of thousands of destroyed houses and hundreds of schools and many people are still living in the tents.

Photo: CTK
While the situation in the bigger cities is beginning to stabilize, many more remote areas are still waiting for aid, which is where small organizations like Tenggara can offer their assistance and experience.

We cannot compete with a big organization which has many donors and sources of money, but we can try to access the remote communities which are not near the main road or which are living in poorer areas and focus on those not-so-easy projects and try to use our local knowledge and use of Indonesian language to try to help directly, not to waste any resources.

Tenggara has opened a bank account for individuals to deposit donations. The account number and information about the progress of the project will be posted on their website,