Serving the community

At the age of 72, Lusiati is still hale and hearty and spends her days as a volunteer for a government-run community project for the elderly and young mothers in Tegal Sari, a slum community in Surabaya city, east of the capital city Jakarta.

“I feel happy; thankful and cheerful because I can help out the elders. I’m not tired. It is interesting when I meet them, and the mothers and babies when I’m collecting data. I’m especially happy because the mothers share their problems and hopes with me, and I can give them advice.”

Lusiati Story

Lusiati stands in the doorway of her Habitat home in Tegal Sari, Surabaya.  The 72-year-old widow  received assistance from Habitat for Humanity Indonesia to rebuild her house after it was blown away by a windstorm. She actively volunteers in her community, working with the elderly, mothers and children. (Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein)

Just over three years ago, life did not look rosy for Ibu Lusi (“ibu” means “mother” in the Indonesian language), as she is fondly called by her neighbors. A windstorm tore her old bamboo house from its foundations and deposited it on top of a nearby mosque, leaving her and her husband without shelter. Her husband, who was worried about how they could rebuild their house, fell into a depression that took a toll on his health, according to Lusiati. Her husband died three years ago.

In 2014, Habitat for Humanity Indonesia expanded its program to Tegal Sari. Local leaders identified Ibu Lusi, who was then living alone, as one of the most vulnerable members of the community. She eventually became the first Habitat homeowner in Tegal Sari. “When staff and community leaders told me Habitat would help me design and build a stronger house, I was so surprised that I cried. My Habitat house is the miracle in my life,” she said. “My husband wasn’t able to see the new house. If he were alive and had seen this, he would be happy.”

Today, the stability of her Habitat home allows her to volunteer and help others. Every morning, she visits other older people on behalf of the local government and distributes over 140 lunch and snack boxes daily. During such visits, she gathers data on the age, health and other needs of the elderly as well as young mothers and their children. The information is regularly sent to the local government office. She also helps to organize weekly assemblies and exercises and check-ups for older people, young mothers and the children in the neighborhood.

She gets a monthly allowance of 55,000 Indonesian rupiah (over US$4) and a minimal transportation fee from the local government for her efforts. It is not a lot of money, she admits. But her true reward is in being able to serve and advise her neighbors, as well as in getting the opportunity to constantly improve her knowledge.

“My neighbors were inspired to seek help in repairing and building their own homes after I built my house with Habitat. I want to tell God, ‘thank you for giving me this house to serve others’.”

Since 2014, Habitat for Humanity Indonesia has worked with more than 5,000 individuals in Tegal Sari to improve their lives through decent housing and/or clean water and safe sanitation with the support of Korean donors. Habitat Indonesia is also implementing a five-year community action plan. This includes rehabilitating the community’s drainage system, setting up a waste management system and renovating community centers, schools and community toilets. Training in waste management and maintaining a safe, healthy living environment will be provided. In addition, Habitat Indonesia has supported school repairs and greening programs in the community. 

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