Story from the Frontline: Plan Indonesia’s Mt. Ili Lewotolok Eruption Emergency Response Team

Everything began on Sunday, November 29th, 2020–when Mt. Ili Lewotolok in Lembata District, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province erupted. The continuous thundering sound and a 4,000 meters high eruption column haunted the local citizens who lived nearby, forcing them to take refuge.

In a panicked state, the local villagers rushed out of their homes as they searched for a safer place. Most of them headed out to Lewoleba, the main city of Lembata district. In disarray, each villager, be it children, adults, or the elderly, tried to help each other in the seemingly never-ending eruption. Most of the evacuees had to leave without proper preparation–they had no other clothes than what they were wearing and they only carried along what was possible with them. To smoothen the evacuation process, some of the children and the elderly had to be carried by the able-bodied.

Amid this chaos, Yayasan Plan International Indonesia (Plan Indonesia) moved swiftly to conduct emergency assistance for the citizens. Since 2006, the Lembata district has become one of the main working areas of Plan Indonesia in NTT. About 9,953 sponsored children (0-18 years old) who came from marginalized families lived in the area. Thus, the Plan Indonesia emergency response team worked rapidly to help as many Mt.Ili Lewotolok eruption survivors as possible, without any exception.

Ignas, a member of the emergency response team recounted that the team tried their best to record the identity and assist the survivors. He did so faithfully, not only out of duty, but also out of deep compassion for the children, the elderly, and the pregnant mothers who had to evacuate.

“They had to leave their homes and run to the shelters. This motivated us Plan Indonesia staff to carry out the (emergency) response and continued with the aid distribution process,” Ignas, who has worked for 10 years in both the Plan International and Plan Indonesia offices, said.

Since 2014, Ignas had been a part of various emergency response teams. This time, he was among the Plan Indonesia front liners for the Mt. Ili Lewotolok eruption response.

In coordination with the local disaster mitigation agency (BPDB), relevant government teams, and volunteers, Ignas and the Plan Indonesia team distributed the aid for the survivors. Among the aid given by Plan Indonesia were emergency shelter tool kits—which included blankets and mats–as well as Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Kits comprised of menstrual pads, detergent powder, underwears, liquid hand wash soaps, small towels, and MHM posters. Aside from that, the team distributed learning kits consisting of notebooks, sketchbooks, rulers, colored pencils, erasers, and sharpeners for the children. A set of recreational kits consisting of chessboards, footballs, guitars, as well as snake and ladders game boards were given to children in 26 affected villages.

These aids were gradually distributed since last December, until the end of Plan Indonesia’s Mt. Ili Lewotolok emergency response on February 20th, 2021. Over the two months of response, Plan Indonesia had distributed 5,322 emergency shelter tool kits, learning kits, and MHM kits for 5,322 affected families or approximately 17,080 Mt. Ili Lewotolok eruption survivors.

Ignas said he was really happy to be a part of the response. He was happy to help the citizens, including the sponsored children. According to Ignas, he had always been committed to giving the best assistance for the children and their families. He hoped that Plan Indonesia’s presence had helped to bring reassurance and comfort to the survivors.

“I have this commitment to help every sponsored child and their families to receive better attention through Plan Indonesia’s presence (in the emergency response). Hopefully, it helped them to feel cared about in any kind of situation,” Ignas said.

In response, the efforts of Ignas and his teams were acknowledged by the local citizens. Sakira (11-year-old), one of the sponsored children from NTT said that she was happy to receive the aid. She had received learning kits, MHM kits, and other health kits related to the COVID-19 pandemic from the Plan Indonesia team.

“I am very happy to receive so many aids from Plan Indonesia. Thank you for your continuous support,” Sakira concluded.