Strong Communities in times of Disaster

In the face of the hurricanes, tropical cyclones and earthquakes and now wildfires that have devastated so many communities in the past two months it is easy to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by human suffering. But, there is not only darkness; we find hope as we witness an upwelling of the latent nobility of the human spirit.

Seasonal fires occur in Kalimantan each year, peaking in the dry season of late summer and early fall. Slash-and-burn deforestation to clear land for farming or other agriculture still takes place, and fires escape from already cleared land into adjacent forest. The swampy forests of the low-lying parts of these islands sit on thick layers of peat (un-decayed vegetation), which is extremely flammable when it dries out. The peat is exceptionally smoky when it burns.

Seasonal forest fires occur in Kalimantan each year, peaking in the dry season of late summer and early fall. Slash-and-burn deforestation to clear land for farming or other agriculture still takes place, and fires escape from already cleared land into adjacent forest. The swampy forests of the low-lying parts of these islands sit on thick layers of peat (un-decayed vegetation), which is extremely flammable when it dries out. The peat is exceptionally smoky when it burns.

Many take huge risks to help their neighbors, sometimes traveling long distances to bring assistance. Others, feeling the need to help, seek out organizations to which they can make a much needed financial contribution. All of these individual efforts are most effective when they have a foundation of community relationships and the structure of government and civil society already in place before disaster strikes.

YUM distributed breathing masks to protect people, especially children and the old, from the haze.
Pictured here, kids from the Borneo Football International Foundation, an SD Project.

Disasters are a reality of life in this world, but Susila Dharma projects are not aimed at disaster relief. Our goal is to build the strength and sustainability of individuals and of the social institutions, family and community, so that when adversity or disaster come, webs of relationship—emotional, intellectual, economic and material—are there already, giving the people a foundation on which to build and rebuild their lives and their communities.

Susila Dharma works to develop skills, understanding and resources people need to build healthy and sustainable communities, free from violence and fear, where children can be raised in the hope of a bright future, the sick and elderly will be cared for without the hardship, and there is harmony between humanity and the natural environment that sustains us and the Spirit of God that fills our lives with meaning.

Training for Farming Without Burning Jayadi Paembonan of Permakultur Kalimantan (YPK) works with communities in Central Kalimantan, where 85% of lowland forests and peat bogs have been lost to unsustainable agriculture and destructive commercial enterprise of various kinds.

Training for Farming Without Burning
Jayadi Paembonan of Permakultur Kalimantan (YPK) works with communities in Central Kalimantan, where 85% of lowland forests and peat bogs have been lost to unsustainable agriculture and destructive commercial enterprise of various kinds.

To all who have endured suffering, experienced the ravages of natural disasters, or have loved ones who have been in peril, for all those we love and care about enduring difficulties and loss, we wish each of you the peace, comfort and safety of better times to come. Susila Dharma is working to create the communities and ourselves develop into the individuals who can sustain those communities with grace and love in the future. May grace encircle all of us…

Thank you!

Aminah Herrman, Chair,
and the Board of Directors of
Susila Dharma USA