Living in flooded Jakarta: Stories Behind The Refugee Camp

Sometimes, the places where people seek shelter from the storm become neighbourhoods with cultures of their own.
Sometimes, the places where people seek shelter from the storm become neighbourhoods with cultures of their own.
On usual days, there are people are doing activities inside this building. Lots of people talk, chat, share, and learn. This building might look like ordinary buildings that are suffered by the flood, however there is something more special in this building.This building is called SMAN Negeri 8 Jakarta, or we can say it High School Number 8, Jakarta. It is a public school and it is the best high school in Indonesia. Every year, the alumni continue their study to prestigious universities like MIT, Tokyo University, Fashion Institute of Technology, and others. Students also win International Science Olympiad, become part of student exchanges, performing traditional arts into international events, and invited famous figures to their events. However, students also face annual guest, flood.Every heavy rain season, there usually be floods. The worst floods often come on January when it’s on the peak of rainy season. Sometimes, the rain in Jakarta does not cause the flood but it’s from a higher region next to Jakarta called Bogor. Students usually call the flashflood as “gift from Bogor”. Few years back, I remembered that on one Friday morning when the sun rises strongly, water rose and we had to go home. The height on that day is only 30 cm but there was possibility for the water to rise.Today, the flood rises at one of the worst point this year. Water rose as tall as 170 cm and first level of the school is drowned. People that live nearby are evacuated to train repair station that is on higher ground. Alumni gathers each year to help people, some people say that flood is a thing that unite the alma mater.As a volunteer, there are different stories that I can find every year. I was involved in giving supplies and morale boost to the refugee. I can see lots of kids are having fun, although they know that the water is dirty and they might feel itchy. Kids always have something they can create to have some fun.
The school is located in the bottom of the slope. On the top of the slope, there are lots of relief center by political parties, religious communities, and other organizations. Ironic thing is, the help never come to the crisis area. People near the high school are survived because of the supplies that were sent by SMA Negeri 8 alumni. I wanted to cross check the information and I asked red cross, military personnel, and more people and they are saying the same thing. Help doesn’t come from the top of the slope. Some people are just taking the advantage of this crisis. April 2014 will be election year. Everyone is doing the same old promise, “for the people”. Some people just want to create the good branding on them, without thinking what people really feel. Worse thing is, when I go to the top of the slope, they are leaving a lot of trashes. They simply don’t help people and they just make the condition worse.

Politicians are not the only one who tries to get some benefits from the flood. I can see that there are people who doesn’t affected by flood got down and soak themselves in the flood just to get some free medicine, food, or supplies. They live on the upper part of the slope, dry and warm but they want to take what is meant for someone that deserves that better. According to some refugees, the person that lives in the upper part of the slope usually go to the political parties’ relief center and deplete all the supplies there. They turned greedy and they also want to exploit the supplies in the refugee camp, although they know supplies are limited.

There is one moment that I cannot photograph but remains in my head. There was a family with children of 2, aged 4 and 5 years old. Because of the limited supplies, the family only got 1 food ration. The parents didn’t eat the ration but they gave it to their children and they will eat their leftover. I asked them why didn’t they eat it, they just simply say this

“For me, it’s okay to have less food or face hunger but at least we can see our children have full stomach and smile. Although we might lose some of our asset but we still have the moments spent with family and see our children smile”

Even on this kind of situation, they can see the silver lining and there are lots of things that I can learn.


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