Indonesia extends aid worker visas; believers join hands to help the region.

By May 27, 2005

Indonesia (MNN)–Indonesia’s government will let humanitarian aid groups remain in the disaster-hit areas until June 11.

Food for the Hungry’s John Frick just got back from an assessment trip to the region. FH, along with the city of Phoenix, Arizona, partnered to work on relief and development programs.

As to how long they can stay, Frick says, “The only impact so far that we’ve had, as far as some of our [expatriates go], is the challenge of getting a long-term visa. Not being able to do that, they have to leave the country and spend a few days, then come back on another tourist visa.”

The assessment team, which was made up of FH workers, and city of Phoenix officials, Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten and Mike Frisbie, a civil engineer. They spent about a week in Indonesia reviewing and evaluating current “Rising to Help” programs, strategizing future development plans, and meeting with provincial leaders and citizens of Meulaboh.

The alliance has raised more than $200,000 to help rebuild Meulaboh. One of the main programs studied by the group was an economic recovery plan to help small business owners rebuild after having lost all in the tsunami.

According to some estimates, more than 600,000 people in Indonesia may have lost their sole source of livelihood because of the tsunami. Fishing, agriculture and other small businesses were hit the hardest.

So far, the partners have provided 100 becak (pedal rickshaws) to help put these Indonesian cab drivers back to work. In Meulaboh, there are no buses, trains, or even taxis, so the becak drivers provide a valuable service to the community. The drivers are some of the poorest of the poor; and many of them were used to paying half of their daily earnings to rent their equipment.

Because of “Rising to Help,” about 100 drivers now own their own becak and are back to work. As a result of Food for the Hungry’s philosophy to not create dependency, each of the drivers had to provide two days of community service and attend several educational sessions covering small business concepts.

Frick says it’s ministry too. “Several of the business and political leaders we’ve come alongside and just developed relationships and demonstrated that we care for them. And again, their question, “Why? Why are you doing this?” That’s the way Christ, when he walked this earth, that’s the approach he took. St. Francis of Assisi said, ‘We’re sharing the Gospel, and at times, we’ll use words.'”

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