U.S. Congressman Tony Hall, Representative from Ohio, visited Mercy Corps' Food For Work programs in two of the poorest areas of Jakarta - Muara Bara and Jelambar. Congressman Hall, a committed supporter of international aid and a three-time nominee for the Nobel peace prize, met with local community leaders and participants of Mercy Corps projects.
Congressman Hall first visited Muara Baru, located near the port of North Jakarta. Prostitution, drugs, and crime is rampant in the area. Most men and women work as casual labor for the port and fishing industries. Nearly 40% have no secure income and half are unregistered by the government, and therefore not eligible for most government services.The population of Muara Baru is in constant transition, about 50% of the residents come from Indonesia’s conflict affected regions.
Representative Hall met newly arrived refugees from conflict-torn Sampit in Central Kalimantan, including Said, a 32-year old father and husband who arrived last month, fleeing with his wife and eight children by Navy boat. Said is now working as a part time laborer the port, and is part of the Mercy Corps program.
In Muara Baru, Mercy Corps is currently targeting 1,100 of the poorest families. Each participant is chosen by local community leaders and has a monthly family income below the official poverty level of 426,000 rupiah (approximately $40). Because 60% of the participants are women, Mercy Corps provides training programs that focus on home economics, business skills and nutrition.
Anna Suzanna, the architect for Mercy Corps urban renewal program, showed Representative Hall a recently completed bridge - the first infrastructure project completed by the Muara Baru community under the current program. Anna explained to Congressman Hall that health centers, schools and community open spaces constructed or renovated by participants are later used for a wide range of community activities. She also noted that all nutritional, educational and public infrastructure projects are integrated with local and central government community initiatives and fully supported by the government officials and that all USAID funded activities are backed by local organizations to ensure sustainability.
Following his visit to Muara Baru, Representative Hall toured Jelambar, a West Jakarta community where Mercy Corps has been working for 18 months. Congressman Hall witnessed first hand the positive impact of Mercy Corps' food program on the community. Highlighted were the water supply, public hygiene and community playground facilities created by local work teams. Representative Hall was greeted by community leader Mr. Karno, who expressed thanks that for the first time in twenty years, much needed resources were available for such infrastructure and capacity building projects.
Since Mercy Corps entered Jelambar, 1,200 different families have participated in various work programs and more than three kilometers of concrete alleyways with drainage and gutters have been constructed.
The Congressman’s tour finished with a visit to a community health center, which was built and equipped in Jelamber with USAID donated commodities and materials.
In addition to food for work activities in 14 districts of Jakarta, Mercy Corps serves 13,500 vulnerable mothers, children and adults monthly through free distribution of commodity to 90 residential institutions and community health clinics in the Jakarta area. Since September 1999, Mercy Corps has distributed over 10,000 metric tons of rice and nutritional supplemented foods through our Jakarta programs.