Recently I visited our member churches in Sumatra, Indonesia, with some colleagues from our Asia regional office. The aim of our visits was to further strengthen the churches' relationship with the UEM and to introduce the new staff of the UEM regional office to members of the church leadership and other church departments.
As project coordinator in this region, I was naturally interested to learn how Covid-19 has affected the church programmes and projects financed by UEM. The responses from church staff always began with the words how grateful they were for the financial support from UEM. One church leader expressed his special thanks for the fact that the UEM had not forgotten the people here on the ground during the pandemic.
The church leaders presented me with various projects that had to be postponed or even cancelled due to Corona. In addition, I learned of some cases where project funds even had to be reallocated to meet more urgent needs that member churches were facing due to Covid-19.
The leaders of the Protestant Karo Batak Church (GBKP) told me that Covid-19 had pushed the digitization in their church. So they had to implement digital formats earlier than planned. As a good example they presented me the project "Tigata" financed by UEM. "Tigata" is an online platform for trading goods, a virtual market place so to speak, which can be downloaded to a mobile device via an App. The GBKP had initiated this project to support farmers in their communities who had difficulties selling their products on the "normal" market due to the effects of the pandemic. The particular benefit of this platform is that church members can shop from home, thus effectively combating the risk of infection and at the same time the spread of Covid-19. It was very interesting for me to learn that none of the people involved in this project initially had any expertise in online sales. What they recognized was the gap in the market and the huge problem of food supply. They immediately decided to find a solution that would help in this situation. The people in charge of online sales also receive regular training in order to continuously improve the application and service. They are especially grateful to the App developer who provided the church's App use free of charge.
The Protestant Simalungun Church (GKPS), for example, another UEM member, implements the following project financed by the UEM: It distributes seeds and planting material to families who generate their own income by selling the later harvest in order to be able to buy more food. By trading goods with other church members, these families take an active part in local economic life. The general secretary of the Church explained that the smallholders could pass on the seeds and seedlings newly produced with the harvest to another family who would benefit in the same way, thus creating a self-sustaining support cycle.
It is encouraging to see that our member churches, despite the many material losses caused by the pandemic, are finding innovative ways to serve people in this difficult situation.
Terri-Lynn Smith (Programme and Fundraising Officer at the UEM regional office in Pematangsiantar, Indonesia)
IBAN: DE45 3506 0190 0009 0909 08