Now the virus has even arrived in paradise: With a little delay, also in Bali the number of infected people is slowly increasing. If the authorities are to be believed, there are currently 19 sick people and 2 deaths. However, the belief in the authorities has already been shaken badly at the beginning of the virus crisis in Indonesia, as the government had to apologize for deliberate misinformation. They wanted to prevent a panic, they said at the time. And so, while every country in Europe was already sealing itself off, the measures in Indonesia were rather slow in getting underway.
Meanwhile, the few foreign observers who still remain on the island are faced with the same picture as almost everywhere else in the world: schools are closed, the streets are empty, restaurants have switched to either take-away or delivery service, people are anxious and torn between their concerns about their health and their financial future.
But there are significant differences compared to Europe. One of the biggest differnce is the non-existence of social networks and insurance systems. If a company here has to close its doors because of the virus crisis, employees are laid off and no insurance company steps in to pay at least part of their wages. They also do not receive unemployment compensation or social benefits. They literally have nothing.
In our village this is already a familiar scenario: in 2017 it was the ash-spewing volcano Agung which scared away the tourists, in 2018 the earthquakes in the nearby Lombok had the same effect. Then as now, there was a flood of dismissals. But then, unlike today, one could assume that the crisis was temporary. Today it is different and although the Balinese are not prone to hysteria or panic, you can now feel their fear of the future.
We interview our friend Ibu Jero, who prepares and distributes the meals for the very old and frail inhabitants of our village twice a week in her warung for our aid project Eldercare. She knows almost all the villagers, about 600 people in 120 families, by name. She draws a devastating picture. We know Ibu Jero well. She doesn't dramatize, she has a sober grasp of reality. And the reality is disastrous. We decide to help.
We decide on care packages for the poorest families: 5 kilos of rice, a handful of shallots, garlic and the beloved small (and for us hellishly hot) chillies, 350 ml oil, 6 eggs, 2 pieces of soap and a small package of detergent are in each package. In addition, we enclose a small information sheet about the disease written in Balinese with each box - who is most at risk, how to protect oneself against it, what the symptoms look like and what to do if you notice them in yourself or a family member.
Ibu Jero, the good Balinese spirit of our projects, organizes the bulk purchase and the preparation of the individual packages for the first round. She has also selected the more than 80 families that will receive them. In order to avoid people crowding in her warung, she has come up with a sophisticated system of vouchers on which a specific time for the collection of the care packages is noted. Her commitment is only matched by her logistical organizing skills. And the first recipients of the packages are already waiting with a hopeful expression on their faces.
In places like Bali, which are 90 percent dependent on tourism, the crisis could last much longer than in industrial and post-industrial business locations. This year the travel season will undoubtedly be skipped completely and even for next year bookings are constantly being cancelled. Once again, it is the poorest people who are hit hardest, those who have never owned so much that they could have put aside reserves.
One care package costs the equivalent of about 6 US $. It feeds a family of four for a week. We will need help, your help, in order to repeat this action - depending on the size of the family once a week up to once a month ... for as long as necessary. Because, although it is like the famous drop in the ocean, our contribution, YOUR contribution, gives the people here hope of surviving this crisis.
Your donation reaches the people in Bunutan via PayPal on this account:
or via the following bank account:
Account number: 0631828233-IDR
Name: Roy Clifford Hitchman