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At a glance: Indonesia

First permanent centre for Aceh’s children opens its doors

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Stechert
Children learn to draw and paint at the first permanent child centre in Aceh.

By Anna Stechert

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 8 March 2006 – Children across Aceh Province now have a new place to stay, learn and play. The region’s first permanent child centre has opened its doors, welcoming young survivors of the tsunami that devastated Aceh in December 2004.

“This is a milestone for us,” said UNICEF Child Protection Officer Roberto Benes in Banda Aceh. “Now we are moving towards long-term solutions and more involvement from the community.” 

Just a few days after the tsunami struck, UNICEF and its partners began setting up child-friendly centres to give children spaces in which to play and recover. Operated under tents in camps for displaced people, the centres serve as a safe haven where children are registered, watched and protected by social workers and volunteers. More than 17,000 children across Aceh have benefited from the temporary centres.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Stechert
Every day, between 50 and 100 children come to Muhammadiyah Children’s Centre in Labui, Aceh.
More child centres on the way

But today, Aceh’s first permanent centre for children is made of solid concrete, not canvas. Every day, between 50 and 100 children come to Muhammadiyah Children’s Centre in Labui, a small fishing community west of Banda Aceh.

The facility consists of five rooms, the four smallest of which are used for meetings, administration, individual therapy sessions and a library. The biggest room, 108 square meters in size, is a play area. Here, the children can participate in dancing, drawing, religious study, math games and other psychosocial activities to help them recover from the trauma of the tsunami. UNICEF provides School-in-Box and recreation kits, supplying materials such as crayons, books, toys and dolls.

UNICEF plans to build at least eight more permanent child centres this year. “The final number is still open because we have to examine several factors before settling on a location,” explained UNICEF Child Protection Officer Zubedy Koteng. More than a year after the tsunami, he said, many communities have not yet resettled, as families continue moving around in search of housing and better jobs.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Stechert
Children play games at Muhammadiyah Children’s Center.

Getting communities involved

While determining where child centres will be needed in the future, UNICEF also examines which communities will have the means to sustain them. Local partners and the Government of Indonesia have agreed to assist with maintenance costs, including water and electricity. It is hoped that communities will assume responsibility for maintaining their own child centres starting in 2007.

“We need and want to create a sense of ownership,” said Mr. Koteng. “The communities must feel that this is their centre, for their children, and it’s their responsibility to keep it running.” In preparation for the handover, child centre staff are being trained in fundraising skills to foster the programmes’ future growth and development.

UNICEF and its partners are also requesting input from children and adults on how to improve the child centres. Volunteers selected to help monitor the centres have been asked to build community networks and establish support groups composed of parents, teachers and others. As a result, more and more local community members are joining forces to support the centres. “This is exactly what we want,” said Mr. Koteng.



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