Nine years after the seaquake – a reunion

Unannounced reunions are the best meetings. Therefore, it did not surprise me at all to meet mostly surprised faces. After all, I was the only one who knew that I would be returning to the place on the Indonesian island of Java, where nine years ago, with around ninety villagers, I demolished an old school and built a new one within three months. During the 2006 Football World Cup in Germany …

Today, the school still looks good – not so clean anymore, but very solid. A few roof battens were renewed. The rest was unchanged, except for the traces of the weather of nine years. Various earthquakes and school classes had rushed through the buildings, leaving tiny traces in the plaster – hardly worth mentioning. During the assembly, newspapers had written that the German was building a bunker. In any case, the buildings have lasted until today, school lessons are still possible here and the village SD Glompong has become known nationwide.

One of the first shouts was “Mlako, mlako”, the Javanese expression for “wandering” or “wanderer”. I had painstakingly acquired this title, back then, as I set off from Muhtar’s house every morning at 6.30 a.m. and booted uphill to the construction site, a growing crowd of construction workers scurrying in front of me, who knew exactly that they should only get work for the day if they were also present at seven o’clock sharp. That is why I heard, then as now, “Mlako, mlako”. Always on foot.

I walked down to Muhtar’s house. His daughters and his wife recognized me quickly and took Muhtar from the field. He was completely baffled! Immediately, he called some others. Jumio, called “Bamboomio” by me, and Erwandi, who came on his motorbike as being now the head of a motorcycle gang. Together, we rode on his “Apache” to the third person of the bunch, Bahtati, and admired his snakes and caves.

While Jumio “Bamboomio” had opened a timber trade, Muhtar traded with cows and goats. All of them had been doing well in the past years – not least because of their high reputation due to our successful Cap-Anamur project. Among the villagers, it is believed that the three men must have been well-disposed towards the spirits. Bahtati, in particular, is now often called upon when a child shows conspicuous behavior and he uses rituals and incantations to calm and balance the child. Not much different from my work, it came to my mind, as a social worker in the youth welfare service. Their and our methods of “empowerment”, i.e. the strengthening of personality, may, however, vary somewhat from each other.

When I asked whether the order and logic of the construction had negatively influenced the order of the villages, Muhtar said that the earthquake had literally shaken life in the villages. Nevertheless, the development after the earthquake was positive. I could also see this in the developments of the individuals. Muhtar was right: After all, there were follow-up orders, new positions in systems that went far beyond the villages, and good contacts with the spirits. Since the Cap-Anamur mission at that time, the children have acquired two school buildings that are still stable today, the men gained work, wages, and also new knowledge about earthquake-proof construction.


In 2006 a heavy earthquake shook the island of Java in Indonesia. Around 6,000 people were killed, countless were injured and hundreds of thousands lost their homes. Cap Anamur worked with the population at that time on the reconstruction, including the construction of schools.

For Cap Anamur, sustainable help also includes contact and exchange with our former employees and projects. By doint so, can we ensure that our measures will help in the long term.

About Malte Fähnders:

Nine years ago, the social worker for Cap Anamur was involved in the reconstruction in Indonesia. In 2013, he helped out in our street children project in Sierra Leone. And a few weeks ago, he visited the school built by Cap Anamur on the Indonesian island of Java. The reunion with his former colleagues was a great joy on all sides. The 42-year-old lives with his family in Vienna.