Elderly people who under normal circumstances manage their life very well by themselves can be hit hard by natural disasters and suddenly need support. Like 74 year-old Ruth Hekneno who lives on Timor Island which was affected by the tropical cyclone Seroja in April 2021.
In the middle of the night on Sunday, April 4, 2021, tropical cyclone Seroja triggered catastrophic flash floods, landslides and strong winds in several locations of Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara Province. Torrential rain led to fatal flash floods and landslides across 18 districts, including Kupang Municipality on the island of Timor where Mrs. Ruth Hekneno lives. The disaster damaged her house and blew off its roof.
Living in a self-sustained way before
Mrs. Hekneno is a traditional weaver, a common occupation for older people in the region. She purchases the raw materials, including the colouring substance, to make woven fabrics. As an alternative for chemical colouring substance, she uses the Morinda citrifolia fruit as an organic colouring substance.
She lives alone in her house in Tunbaun. Her husband passed away in 2005. Her only daughter is married and has four children. Her daughter’s house is about one kilometre away. So, she often pays a visit to her, and her grandchildren bring her firewood and water for cooking. Their visits always cheers Mrs. Hekneno up. She lives in a self-sustained way, planting crops like corn, casava and ground peanuts on her land for her own consumption.
Serious physical and mental consequences
When the cyclone hit her area, Mrs. Hekneno sat on her terrace and watched from a distance as the wind broke branches and trees and smashed roofs. She sought refuge in her neighbour’s house. The tropical cyclone Seroja was her first experience with such strong winds and this traumatized her, but she was also thankful that she was still alive. Due to her house being damaged however, she worried about how and when to repair it.
After the cyclone, her body became weak and she lost her interest in doing daily chores. For two months, she was less productive than before the disaster. But now she feels better and is motivated to recover.
Food and shelter for timely support
On 28 May 2021, Mrs. Hekneno received a food package from YAKKUM Emergency Unit (YEU) and ACT Alliance which consisted of rice, cooking oil, eggs, sugar, tea packs, salt, and soy sauce. She said that the five kilos of rice she received would last her for one month since she lived alone. When she is not cooking rice, she will cook corn or other crops from her garden, so that she can make the rice last even longer. She is grateful to have received the food package from YEU and ACT Alliance, since the food suits her daily diet. She said that the aid is enough for her and that any aid she receives is a blessing from God.
ACT-member YEU has two kinds of projects in Mrs. Hekneno’s area: food packages and shelter kit distribution. In the third week of June, those shelter kits were distributed, and Mrs. Hekneno received one. Now she can work on rebuilding her home, helping to return her life to what it was like before the cyclone.
Melly Sabina Ester Lengkong, YEU