11/16/2010, 00.00
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Catholics helping Mentawai refugees and Mount Merapi victims

by Mathias Hariyadi
A Catholic charity and its medical staff bring aid to natural disaster victims. A mission has reached the Mentawai islands, hit by a tsunami in later October, whilst another group is setting off to help victims of the Mount Merapi eruption.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – “I am spiritually delighted to learn that so many donors are extending a helping hand to Mentawai’s survivors,” said Dr Irene Setiadi, a humanitarian activist with the Kelompok Bakti Kasih Kemanusiaan (Humanitarian and Charity Group or KBKK), a Jakarta-based Catholic humanitarian organisation. She spoke to AsiaNews about her group’s work and generosity towards Mentawai Islanders, who were severely tested by the 26 October tsunami that killed 451 people and left thousands homeless.

Ms Setiadi, a German-trained dermatologist, said that two lorries loaded with essential items arrived in Padang (West Sumatra) on their way to the Mentawai Islands. “In the coming days, another KBKK team with three medical practitioners and two volunteers will be dispatched to Mentawai.” In addition, “KBKK’s relief team will be on the site for at least four weeks under the supervision of Father Augustine Mudjihartono Pr who is the diocese’s Caritas chief,” she added.

The KBKK team and the local diocesan Caritas will organise aid distribution. This will be the KBKK’s second humanitarian mission, after that of 2008. Two KBKK members, Lusiana Srikiana and Grace Eka Negara, had previously performed another humanitarian mission to the area.

In May 2010, another humanitarian initiative was undertaken to “establish ties with local clergymen,” said Sister Lusy, namely “Fr Andreas Yogi, the chief priest at Sikakap Parish Church, and Fr Anton Wahyudi, on Siberut Island with funds from the William Soeryadjaja Foundation to provide locals with a scholarship.” However, last month’s tsunami drastically changed everything and so a new mission had to be launched.

Likewise, the KBKK organised an aid mission for Mount Merapi victims in Central Java, under Andreas Gunawan, a physician and KBKK activist, Ms Setiadi said.

“We urgently need several electric generators, water, used clothes, medical supplies, food supplement, mattress and blanket for Mt Merapi’s refugees who are still seeking refuge in hundreds of temporary shelters,” Dr Andreas Gunawan told AsiaNews.

KBKK is a Catholic charity dedicated to helping others, especially the less fortune, natural disaster victims and people affected by political strife. Present in Indonesia for the past ten years, it has performed several humanitarian missions in more than 20 dioceses, including delivering food and providing health care in Dili (Timor Leste) and Atambua (East Nusa Tenggara) after the 1999 massacre in the East Timorese capital. It also rescued victims of sectarian violence in Ambon and Poso, survivors of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh and quake victims in Padang, Yogyakarta and Tasikmalaya. KBKK members have also provided health care to indigenous Papuans in remote areas of Papua province, like Nabire.

The organisation includes at least 250 activists, including medical doctors and architects, as well as dozens of priests and nuns, led by Mgr Sutrisnaatmaka, bishop of Palangkaraya.

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