The sinking city

How SOS Children's Villages helps flooded homes in Indonesia

In Semarang, a port city on the Indonesian island of Java, entire neighborhoods sink into the sea. Little Dinda’s family can’t move from there: they have nothing except their land and their house. So they live with and in the water. Every day.

Bundles of incense sticks burn in front of the houses in the district of Desa Sajung. They hardly cover the smell of humidity and rot. Every second house stands empty, foundations replaced by an enormous puddle. It's lunchtime.
« In the morning, around five o'clock, the water comes, » says Safa, who has been living with her children in Desa Sajung for five years. « When the moon is full, it’s worse : it can go up to a meter. »
She points to her house, where her eleven-year-old daughter Dinda is knee-deep in the water, warming up her lunch. The beds are elevated, all belongings of the family stowed on self-made podiums.
Six people live there, in approximately 70 square meters: Safa, her three daughters, her husband and her brother-in-law. The house doesn’t even have a roof and the plastic wrap only holds light rain.

Where does this water come from?

« The water comes from everywhere, » says Yani Tejo, director of the SOS Family Programs in Semarang. « In the rainy season from above, out of the sea daily, it's unhygienic, the families are sick, and it's dangerous: water snakes swim in the houses. »

For about five years, the district of Desa Sajung, on the edge of Semarang, has been flooded. Before the floodings, there were cheap land here. That’s why many working-class families settled. Nodody knows exactly what is the cause of these floods. Some blame climate change, some the harbor facility, which was built five years ago. Through its massive fortifications, it pushes the water to Desa Sajung. Some also believe that the industry is sucking up too much groundwater, causing the clay soil to collapse and sink.


Garbage foundations

Many of the families have raised their homes: they do not have any money to do so, so they collect garbage and pour concrete over it.
« To raise a house so that the water does not run into it costs the equivalent of 1,500 euros, » explains Yani Tejo. « Sometimes the government takes care of some of the building materials, but the families have to raise the rest of the money themselves. They earn between 500 and 700 euros a month, so there is often not enough money to pay for the children's school fees. »

School fees for the children

This is where SOS Children's Villages help: Dinda and her sisters receive tuition from SOS Children's Villages, school supplies and homework help. In addition, the family gets a microcredit to be able to raise their house. « The families can not move away, » says Yani Tejo, « prices have risen, nobody can afford a new property. »

« When I’m done with school, » Dinda explains, « I want to be a doctor. Then we’ll have enough money to move out of here. »

Translated from German