Flores is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, extending east from the Java island of Indonesia. The name of this Indonesian island of 1.8 million people means “flowers” in Portuguese.
Flores’s history as a Portuguese colony means the majority of its population is Roman Catholic. In contrast, the majority of people in Indonesia are Muslim.
Earthquake strikes in Flores
Unfortunately, life in Flores is not always easy. Many children are living in desperate poverty on the island, even when compared to the rest of Indonesia. This is partly the consequence of a severe earthquake that occurred around Christmas 2002. It measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and killed 2,500 people in and around Maumere, also affecting islands off the north coast. Increase in tourism has eroded the traditional means of employment and income for many inhabitants, which are based on agriculture and fishing.
Lack of work and appalling conditions for children
Local government has no money for development and lots of areas in Flores lack even the most basic infrastructure. Roads, water and proper sanitation are all absent. Even before the earthquake, people were struggling to survive.
Rural areas are affected the most by poverty and the most vulnerable are children, unable to fend for themselves. Many young workers leave the island in search of work – sometimes travelling far abroad – and send what little they earn back to their families.
The chances of getting an education are slim and around 33% of people have no access to healthcare. The Flores economy is still dominated by agriculture and this means that income is unreliable. A successful harvest – dependent on uncontrollable factors like weather conditions and soil quality – means the difference between a full belly and starvation. 38% of children are malnourished.
What is SOS children doing?
SOS Children began work in the region after the 2002 earthquake. With 2,500 killed in the disaster and a significant portion of housing and infrastructure damaged or destroyed, help was badly needed.
Our community work began in Indonesia in 2005. Working in and around our SOS Social Centre in Maumere, we provide vital support for struggling parents and helpless children, helping them to avoid dissolution. Parents under stress are at a high risk of abandoning their children, especially if unable to feed them.
SOS Children encourage families to stay together by providing counselling services and community support, as well as practical help such as food, assistance with income-generation and advice in dealing with authorities. Workshops and self-help groups offer parents the tools to deal with the stress of living in an unstable environment. Up to 90 children receive day care from the SOS nursery, so parents can go to work safe in the knowledge their children are professionally cared for.
Caring for children with no one else
Loving homes are provided for any children who no longer have a family. Children are cared for by an SOS Mother and raised in an SOS family. Access to this sort of care is key to ensuring every child’s enjoys a happy and safe upbringing.
Our youth programme provides young people starting out in the world with opportunities for development. This includes being supported by qualified professionals in developing positive perspectives on the future, learning to bear responsibility and developing the ability to make their own decisions, as well as vocational training or higher education. Children in Flores enjoy lifelong benefits thanks to our work in the region.
SOS Children is working with local people to giving children in Flores the best possible start in life.