This week has been both confronting and rewarding. Having reached of thousands of dollars from your generous gifts, we spent time planning how best we could funnel that money into the community.
We spoke with a number of organisations on the ground in Bali who are doing incredible work providing food and help to those in need including Balilife Foundation, The People Must Eat and Crisis Kitchen. All of them had tales of extraordinary distress from people all over Bali and of the relief in being able to care for them. It is truly a source of faith in humanity to see how foreigners and Indonesians in Bali are rallying to support others.
One of the stories that kept repeating was the desperate situation for people living in ‘Kos’ accommodation.
A Kos is essentially a very small single room, often windowless and opening directly to the outside, in a complex of many rooms. The buildings look much like the images you have in your mind of old-style motels. The complex could be occupied by anything from 5 to 30 families who all share bathroom facilities. Each family lives in one room or Kos, whether they have 1 child or 4, and they usually cook outside on temporary portable cooking equipment.
A Kos is most often the accommodation for people who are living away from their homes in an area close to where they can find work. They are occupied by Balinese people whose villages are in far-flung reaches of Bali or by people from other islands of Indonesia such as Java, Sumba and Timor. These are the ‘migrant workers’ who drive foreigners around Bali, work as cleaners and cooks in villas, waiters in bars and restaurants and nannies for families. They are very much the faces of Bali tourism.
The system in Indonesia is that each person has an ID card which ‘registers’ them as members of their permanent home village or residence; living outside their area of ID means they are not entitled to the assistance of the local government (banjar) of the area in which they live in their Kos. This would be like for example, growing up in Subiaco but being denied any welfare if you chose to move to Margaret River. Or spending most of your life in Perth and not being entitled to government help if you moved to Sydney.
Most of them are restricted in their movement and cannot go back to their home villages but even if they can, the predicament they face is whether they should give up renting their Kos and go or stay in the south of Bali in the hopes of picking up any work that may be offered.
Right now, a huge proportion of these people have lost their jobs, have no means of feeding their families, paying for electricity, medical care or petrol. They are lost and scared.
Our friend Budi told us about three Kos grouped together in a small community in Denpasar that are occupied by people in desperate need. This was our first port of call with your donations.
Firstly, in an effort to spread the benefit of your donations around, we purchased 55 packs of ’nasi jinggo’ (a full meal of rice, chicken and sambal wrapped in banana leaf) from a home-cook in Denpasar. Pak Pedro and his wife have spent 14 years making nasi jinggo for school lunches. However since schools have been locked down since March, they have lost their means of income.
We collected the nasi jinggo and headed for a banjar in north Denpasar where the kos are located. We distributed both food and money to 19 families and listened to their stories. They are from Karangasem in Bali to Malang in Java to the minority Sasak community of Lombok. All of them away from their homes and extended families. Not once did we hear complaints or words of self-pity. We explained to them that these gifts of cash and food have come from their friends in Australia, Hong Kong and China who are worried about them and hoping for the best. The smiles on their faces spoke a thousand words.