COVID-19: Indonesian church aids out-of-work rickshaw drivers

Jepri Tarigan, an unemployed rickshaw driver received food donations from the Simalungun Protestant Christian Church, which received funds for the program through the LWF COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. Photo: Rev. Aman Saud Purba/GKPS
Jepri Tarigan, an unemployed rickshaw driver received food donations from the Simalungun Protestant Christian Church, which received funds for the program through the LWF COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. Photo: Rev. Aman Saud Purba/GKPS

LWF Rapid Response Fund supports church diakonia

(LWI) - It did not take the diaconate of the Simalungun Protestant Christian Church (GKPS) long to realize the financial impact the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic shutdowns would have on the communities around their synod district.  

The lack of work, most of which is commerce and transportation, left families of passenger rickshaw drivers particularly without means to a livelihood, and GKPS filled a need.  

GKPS is among 42 churches that by June had received funding from the LWF COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF). The fund, launched in April, supports many of the communion’s member churches that are particularly vulnerable during the global health emergency. Upon approval of a project application, a church can receive a grant of up to EUR 5,000 from the global fund supported by LWF’s member church partners around the world. 

Holiday festivals such as the Islamic Eid, government workers, and tourism typically fuel the passenger rickshaw industry in Indonesia, which came to a halt for many of the 300 or more drivers in Pematang Siantar, due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and shutdowns.  

Jepri Tarigan, a 55-year-old rickshaw driver said his income before COVID-19 was 60,000 Indonesian Rupiah per day, equivalent to USD 4.00 or EUR 3.70. Tarigan is not receiving the normal passenger volume of 10-12 rides per day since COVID-19, but is thankful that he owns his rickshaw so, at least, he doesn’t have to worry about repaying a loan that many others take to purchase their tricycles.  

With no other options to make money, Tarigan is also grateful for the support of GKPS, partially funded by the LWF COVID-19 Rapid Relief Fund, which distributed food items to him and 52 of his rickshaw colleagues.  

The church also donated food to the elderly and to 180 families who belong to the Bangun Panei congregation, an area which had been isolated for several weeks due to extraordinary coronavirus prevention measures by the government.   

Thanks to the RRF funding, the church also purchased a camera to produce worship videos that are distributed on the GKPS YouTube channel, with an average of 4,200 viewers on Sundays. In addition, the church’s pastors disseminate the material to their local congregation members through a dedicated WhatsApp group. 

Safety and prevention are part of the church’s COVID-19 response. The Indonesian church distributed 2,000 face masks at public markets and another 3,100 to doctors and nurses at the GKPS Bethesda Hospital in Saribudolok town. 

   

Many LWF member churches witness in contexts that are particularly vulnerable to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. LWF's COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund provides churches with short-term grants to address unforeseen and urgent needs faced by churches themselves and the communities they serve. Funding comes from LWF member churches around the world.

GKPS pastor Rev. Aman Saud Purba and LWF Asia Regional Officer Ms Tetty Aritonang contributed to this story. 

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