Thursday, September 07, 2006

Grass Root Socialism From Kualakuerto

By Michael Yudha W

LIKE the poles of a magnet that oppose each other, thus the description of social relation between normal, healthy people with the leprosy. Even worse, it was once believed that leprosy was very hard to be cured, it was a curse from God as a punishment to those who committed sin. That was why it’s a compulsory for the leprosies to be avoided and rejected “persona non grata” by the society.

Appear few villages specialized for the leprosies or as it was narrated in “BEN-HUR”, a colossal movie with 212 minutes of time duration, got 11 Academy Awards in 1959, where all the leprosies had to live in caves in a valley which located far away from the Roman’s settlement. Thus the image of the leprosies will always be the image of evil spirit for the modern society. It has become the disease that is frightened by all the people in the world. The leprosies, because of their disease and poverty they are classified as the lowest society.

Story of Kualakerto
A gampong was completely destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, but in the present, at Kualakerto Barat, the bad image toward the leprosies has soon been got rid off. Probably this is one of the blessed from the disaster. That morning, in the yard of a meunasah [house of worship], joy and friendliness of gampong [Acehnese traditional village] society assimilated into one without any boundaries between them. Even, some leprosy people were freely interacted with the other society. The expression of happiness from the leprosies seemed to be the best among all. Why not? 52 units of houses will be built for the leprosy. It’s the coordination between CORDIA and Caritas Germany as the answer to their concerned, related to facilitating their needs.

As a remark of the first corner stone related to the reconstruction project of 52 units of houses with type 42, a cow was dedicated as an offering together with prayer, ritual offering and water splashed on excavated ground and stone as the foundation of the house. Ureng Aceh [Acehnese people] called it as traditional ritual Peusijuk Rumoh. Muhammad Yusuf and his wife couldn’t hide their expression of happiness when the village committee decided to build their house first. Both of them are leprosies who have married for 5 years and granted with one child. Unfortunately, the tsunami has taken away their one and only.

“I’m very glad Sir, thank you Sir, we are very happy”, sincerely expressed by Yusuf who was accompanied by his lovely wife, Adenia. To perceive the starter of the house reconstruction project at Kualakerto Barat, leprosy gampong at Samudra subdistrict, North Aceh. “Before, [before tsunami] we earned money by way of making pandanus plaited mat. We were able to finish the size of 1,5x6 metres in a week and we could earn thirty thousand per mat. But now no more, no more trees because of tsunami, no more material, no more capital. For daily meal, we still get back up. But we would like to work again, Sir, but we don’t have any capital and we don’t know what to do”, said Yusuf expressing his concerned.

The leprosy at Kualakerto has high spirit in life. Their self-esteem is getting better when the society accept their presence. Half of the villagers at the nearest gampong have even become their regular customers if they need fish. “People usually buy fish from me, from the other gampong as well. I directly buy fish from the sea [fisherman who just came back from the sea] so the fish is still fresh”, said Mardjuki, a leprosy fish seller. “I love to have a job, but the income is just barely enough. Would you like to assist in giving capital?” he asked CORDIA.

At Kualakerto Barat, tsunami has brought positive effects to the society. Women and girls are now freely in giving opinion in gampong meetings, impossible issue in Moslem culture that is paternalistic, in which the women should obey and always stay under men. In meetings with the village committee, the leprosy has the same right in determining the design of their own houses. They were sitting together, discussing, debating, solving problems and giving suggestion about how the gampong should be built with a better feature.

“I also attended if there’s a committee meeting, feel glad to be able to talk to others. We also drew the gampong map together but I usually just kept quiet if people were arguing. Usually men needed longer time to talk and hard to be stopped”, said Adenia, a leprosy who had ever worked as pandan plaited mat maker. Solidarity, equal right, and equivalent in value as human is respected together with the leprosy who used to be rejected by the society, now can live side by side as one gampong society. This is half of the result from the reconstruction project by using Community Action Plan approaches [CAP].

Leprosy Community
In Indonesia, the leprosy has reached the number of 14.540 people or almost below 1/10 thousand citizens. According to the Ministry of Health Siti Fadilah Supari’s report in the beginning of last December in 2005, there were 12 provinces in Indonesia as the leprosy contagious places, such as: Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, East Java, south Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Mid Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, South East Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Gorontalo, and Papua. Universally, Indonesia spotted the third place as the country with most leprosy people after India and Brazil.

The frighteness of the society toward leprosy is reasonable because of the lack of actual information. But actually the disease which caused by the Microbacterium Leprae can be cured if the person has been treated since the beginning. In general, there are 2 types of leprosy symphtoms. In Paucibacillary [PB], the dry type usually remarked with white spots like the skin fungus. The white spots doesn’t cause itchiness and it’s numb when it’s touched. In Multibacillary [MB], the wet type, remarked with the skin thickening or small reddish lump which caused numbness in longer period. The second type can be contagious if not treated soon. Nowadays, if someone is infected, they can have free treatment in the hospital and it needs 2 to 5 years or sometimes 40 years for incubation.

Different between in Indonesia and in Kualakerto. Eventhough leprosy settlement or institutions are spreaded in provinces mentioned above, Kualakerto has it’s own strategy and way in restoring and empowering the prestiges of leprosy people. “Places such as the institutions are actually situated the leprosy apart from the society. At Lao Simomo near Kabanjahe, I saw a road sign to leprosy village. For me, that sign means something else, stay away from this place, isn’t it?” said Heinrich Terhost, Caritas Germany representative at Banda Aceh in a conversation with CORDIA. According to him, they should do the best to bring them back to the society during rehabilitation. Means that after they have recovered and have the ability to work.

Now, the participative reconstruction at Kualakerto Barat for leprosy village is running and being built in transparency. It is built at somewhere not remoted and hidden from the society. It’ll be just the same as other villages in Indonesia. Built for the leprosy, provided with market, house of worship, small clinic, playground for kids, community hall, dike, connected path between villages and other general facilities that all combined together and in a close distance between houses.

In reason of tsunami, the transparency between gampong people who live on the side of Malacca sea are getting better. Friendship, greeting, brotherhood, solidarity and interaction between villagers are so tenuous and no more differences in social status, religion, races or not in normal physical condition which experienced by the leprosies before the big wave striking the whole place.

“ Don’t forget about me, Sir”, said Mardjuki briefly to CORDIA while shaking hands before leaving for Kualakerto. A simple, sincere and very touching message. Is it true, us as society have neglected them for all this time? What is our answers to their questions as our relative? [*]