“Speck of light” brightens the future

Indonesia, May 31, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Iswanto JA/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Jalukhu is optimistic about education in the Mentawai Islands post-earthquake and tsunami because of a “speck of light” from Mercy Corps. Photo: Iswanto JA/Mercy Corps

Crek... crok... crak! The sound of the manual typewriter echoes throughout the quiet night in the displacement camp. In the 24-square-meter room, the typewriter's rhythms make new music in harmony with cricket and mosquito sounds.

The old typewriter is played by the old man's fingers. He has graying hair but an energetic body and mind. He is the headmaster of the local elementary school, and every night he is always busy typing a report. Mercy Corps visited him at a busy time of year — currently elementary and high schools in Indonesia's tsunami-stricken Mentawai Islands are conducting their final exams.

The old headmaster is 56-year-old Jalukhu, originally from Nias Island. He’s a civil servant convinced that, despite the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami, the education and prospects of Mentawai's children will soon rise.

Jalukhu is an inspiration in Mentawai. He sees a brighter future for the people of Mentawai post-tsunami because of teachers and all parties who are assisting with the recovery of the Mentawai Islands.

Mercy Corps has been here in Mentawai since shortly after the tsunami, delivering emergency supplies and carrying out programs to help displaced survivors recover. One of our recent projects has been the distribution of solar-powered lights, with help from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

"The emergency d.Light solar light from Mercy Corps has really helped my work. For me, the solar light is very helpful for all evening activities," he explained.

There are two kinds of lights in his house. One type is a kerosene lantern and the other type is the emergency solar light from Mercy Corps. The solar lights are the best resource, because the kerosene lantern is expensive to refill and smells bad. There is a constant fuel shortage in Mentawai as well, which means that without solar lights, sometimes villagers cannot have any light at all.

"Solar lights from Mercy Corps do not use fuel and are recharged in front of the house using sunlight. In addition, the risk from emergency solar light is minimal. If the solar light falls, it will only be broken or damaged, but if a lantern falls, it can cause a fire while we are asleep," he said.

Jalukhu’s children also use the solar lights to study at night. Starting at 8 P.M. his children study, but at 10 P.M. it is his turn to use the light’s brightness for typing.

According to Jalukhu, the solar lights are helpful and economical — and more would be much appreciated throughout the displacement camps where many of Mentawai's tsunami survivors are still living.