Belcion and Olfin’s story: January 2019

Belcion and Olfin – still finding the strength to smile   [Image: Paola Barioli/Medair]

Belcion and Olfin – still finding the strength to smile

[Image: Paola Barioli/Medair]

To reach Jono, a village west of Palu, you drive for 45 minutes. As you approach the village, the damage caused by the 28 September 2018 earthquake becomes more and more evident: the road is cracked and torn apart and parts of it that were flat before are now bumpy. Jono is a small, rural village, lost in the middle of large rice fields. “People don’t know this place. Many mistake it with the other Jono, Jono Oge, the bigger one that was severely affected by liquefaction,” said Belcion, 52 years old. He welcomed All We Can’s partner staff and apologised for his “broken” English: “You know, high school was long, long time ago,” he said, smiling ear to ear. But then he stopped and he said quietly: “Sometimes I feel too bad to smile, you know, for all what happened. But then I remember the principle I love the most in life: smile, always, no matter what.”  

Belcion and his wife Olfin were born in Jono. They met each other and got married 17 years ago. When the earth started shaking on 28 September, they were at home, drinking coffee and resting after an intense day in the fields. “We tried to run out, but the earth was shaking so violently that we fell several times,” said Belcion. “When we finally reached the door, we heard our neighbour screaming. She was trapped inside her house. I didn’t think twice and I went there to help her. The entire village was shocked, people were in the street, crying and asking for help. We ran up to the hill and, within a few hours, we built temporary shelters with wood and leaves and what we could find on the ground.”  

Some people are still living there, two months after the disaster, but Belcion and Olfin decided to come back to their village: “We were born here, we met here. We want to rebuild our life here,” said Belcion. They have built a tiny makeshift shelter a few metres from what is left of their previous house. “The house is still standing, but is severely damaged and has huge cracks inside,” said Belcion. “We don’t feel safe there anymore. But, sometimes, when it is raining a lot, we are forced to sleep there because the roof of our shelter is leaky and water comes in.” The couple share one mattress with their three children. “Since the disaster, I have been working hard to rebuild my house,” he said.  

We are just tools in the hands of God, an extension of God’s kindness. And we need to extend this kindness to other people in need. This is why I would never refuse to help a neighbour who needs it,” Belcion said. “Here in Jono, we help each other. Muslims and Christians live in harmony and share the little we have. It is this solidarity that keeps us going during hard times.”  

Since the earthquake seriously damaged the fields and destroyed the irrigation system, Belcion is not able to farm anymore. He is now focusing on rebuilding his house, but he hopes to be able to go back to his activities soon. “When something like this happens, the first thing you think about are your loved ones. For two days after the disaster, I had no news of my older daughter who lives farther up in Donggala – a coastal area that was severely affected by the tsunami. “Communications were down, the roads were blocked. Not knowing if your loved ones are safe is…simply terrible,” said Belcion. “Luckily, she is fine. We all are. Now we need to move forward. Rebuild our house, rebuild our lives. If we don’t work, we don’t have the money to buy anything, not even the most essential everyday items,” he adds.

When asked about the items received shortly after the tsunami from one of All We Can’s humanitarian aid partners - “Everything was useful, so useful. Especially the bucket. You know, before the earthquake, we had water at our house. Now we need to go to the well and fetch water every morning,” explained Belcion. “We love it. It’s our little morning exercise. At least we will be in good shape,” continued Olfin.