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How Risky Is It to Bring Safe Water to Indonesia?

Want to know what it’s like to bring safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions to a country made up of thousands of islands in the Ring of Fire? We’ve interviewed Surya Sentosa Surbakti, operations manager at Water Mission Indonesia, about his work in the archipelago nation.

Read along and learn how you can support him and the rest of our Indonesia team!

Water Mission staff member conversing with a resident of Sinbongkare

Our Indonesia Program

Water Mission began work in Indonesia in 2005 in response to the devastating tsunami that struck in December 2004. Since then, Water Mission’s local staff have been assessing the country’s most urgent water-related needs. Waterborne illnesses remain a major cause of death among children under the age of five, partly due to an urgent lack of health and hygiene education in schools and communities. False knowledge about what makes water safe to drink is rampant in Indonesian communities.

The country’s geography also makes it vulnerable to frequent natural disasters: volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods. And most recently, tensions were running high after a presidential election in which results were contested and left unvalidated for weeks. These natural, cultural, and political occurrences require our program staff to constantly calculate, strategize, and mobilize in ways that test and strengthen both muscle and mind.

Indonesia water source
Water Mission tap stand in Sibongkare

Our Staff

Our Indonesian staff of 15 is headquartered in three offices spread laterally across the country. The team installs and supports projects throughout Indonesia and in surrounding countries, including the Philippines, Cambodia, Nepal, and Myanmar. Strategically set in the Pacific, our Indonesia offices serve as a gateway into Asia, a continent so expansive and so naturally diverse that it requires a particularly adaptable, accomplished, and adventurous team. Our staff members in Southeast Asia, who operate in either a technical or community development capacity, travel by foot, car, or motorbike to get to hard-to-reach areas.

The team is led by country program director Jan Daniel, who holds five degrees, including a B.S. in chemical engineering. His extensive educational and professional experiences have been vital in bringing safe water to the people of Pekanbaru, Medan, and Kupang, Indonesia. Equally essential to the work is the bold attitude and gusto shared by every member of the team, as is evident in our interview below:

Indonesia water crisis
 Water Mission staff on site at a project in the hills above Lake Toba 

Our Q&A with Operations Manager, Surya Sentosa Surbakti

Cinelle Barnes: What unique challenges do you face as a team?

Surya Sentosa Surbakti: It is not easy for us to mobilize from one place to another because Indonesia is a big country made up of thousands of islands. Its many parts are divided by water and it is separated from other countries by the Pacific Ocean. You can just imagine how hard it is for us here to travel from one place to another. It is particularly challenging when we respond to natural disasters, when we need to transport supplies and equipment in a short amount of time.

Safe water wells
Working on a safe water project in Torhonas, Indonesia

CB: Given these circumstances, how can our partners support your team?

SSS: Indonesia is a big country with a variety of natural conditions and occurrences. On top of that, there are quite a lot of unreached communities in remote areas where people lack access to safe water. I can say that supporters can pray for logistics and traveling. Even in harsh or challenging conditions, our team does extensive traveling. We need people to pray for health, protection, safety, and wisdom. Apart from prayer, we need functioning vehicles and motorbikes that can withstand the terrain.

Indonesia Water Mission staff
Water Mission staff hiking uphill to a water source in Torhonas

CB: What is the most dangerous task you’ve had to do for disaster response?

SSS: They’re challenging — but I don’t think they’re dangerous! (Smiles)

CB: I guess we can say that our staff in Southeast Asia is made up of daredevils! That said, what is your hope for Indonesians affected by the global water crisis and by natural disasters?

SSS: I hope and pray that our work at Water Mission will be the answer to many of their health, sanitation, and hygiene problems. I pray that through our presence and work, the people here will feel the love of God.

CB: I pray the same over you, your team, and the country, Tosa. Thank you for doing what you do.

SSS: It is my pleasure.

Sustainable water project
Securing a safe water system in Torhonas

If you’d like to learn more about what Water Mission is doing around the world, including in Indonesia, sign up for our email updates. To learn more about how we’ve responded to natural calamities, browse our blog for previous posts on disaster response.

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