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The Sumba Foundation

The Sumba Foundation

The Sumba Foundation was established to tackle some of the most pressing problems that face the incredibly poor inhabitants of the island. Health problems are rife, such as malaria and malnutrition. Through the concerted effort of The Sumba Foundation they have turned around the issues and economies in the villages they support.

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Tell us about the establishment of The Sumba Foundation in 2001

Claude Graves, founder of Nihiwatu Resort, and Sean Downs, an American businessman from California, established the Sumba Foundation in 2001. Claude saw the level of poverty throughout Sumba and wanted to establish an organization that would help the people of Sumba. Sean Downs and his family were very touched by the idea, and decided to donate $100,000 to start The Sumba Foundation.

What are the Main Projects that The Sumba Foundation has Established?

Our oldest program is access to clean water, the next is malaria eradication, and our third is nutrition. Without these basic needs and the persistent malaria problem it is very difficult to raise the villages out of poverty.

Beyond these top three, we also have programs to sponsors schools, clinics, surgeries, optometry, and special projects as well.

What are the challenges that face the foundation on this remote island?

Getting supplies is always a big struggle, many of the items we need for our clinics, malaria programs, and water programs are only available in Bali or Java- so we have to wait for shipments.

Although Bali is only an hour away by air, most of our supplies come by sea. And this always depends on ferries, which are notoriously undependable.

Malaria is one of the largest health threats on the island; tell us how your programmes have helped eradicate this.

In our target region we have been able to eradicate about 85% of the cases of malaria per year. This is through a three pronged method that includes: 4 malaria clinics, village based malaria surveying and treatment, and our Malaria Microscopy Training Center.

If you eradicate malaria in people you can eradicate malaria, as has been the case in other islands. Once the mosquitoes have bitten an infected person they themselves can get infected and spread the disease. Simple measures, such as giving out mosquito nets impregnated with repellent that immediately kills the insects has made dramatic improvement in both the rates and peoples lives.

There is a direct correlation between economics and malaria. You will usually find that areas with high malaria rates have the poorest incomes.

002-SumbaFWhat are the other main health problems that the people of Sumba face and how is the foundation assisting to address these problems?

Maternal health is a huge problem that we are starting to tackle this next year. We will be sponsoring midwife clinics with necessities such as a Doppler, prenatal vitamins, mother’s milk, midwife kits, and afterbirth kits.

Like many remote and underdeveloped areas there is a high level of infant mortality. By tackling this issue we hope to improve mortality rates and the socio economic problems associated with this issue.

You also have the most established programme of providing clean water that is essential on this arid island. Is this a big problem facing communities on the island?

Sumba is very dry, especially when it’s not the rainy season. Without some of our wells, people would be traveling between 5-10 kilometers every morning and evening to get water. We go to the other regions of the island that The Sumba Foundation has not established wells and the general population is dirtier, sicker, and their situation is more dire.

By improving the most basic need of clean water we can see immediate improvements in health and their ability to work in these areas.

There is also the library initiative and education programmes, how are these progressing?

These are some of our best programs, not because we are actually continuing it but because the local government has taken ownership of these. Libraries were non-existent before we came in, now the schools themselves are establishing them. We still provide school furniture at times, but the government builds many of the buildings now. At the end of the day, we want to help, but in the end provide the tools and incentive for them to take on the programs themselves.

We also have a school lunch programme for the schools in the Nihiwatu area. We provide school lunches and also use this as a tool to teach other generations about good nutrition. The diet is very basic – just rice, cassava, and occasionally dried fish. By providing a balanced meal, the children get a taste for vegetables that they then ask for at home, feel more energy and actively learn about the benefits of a healthy diet. We used to provide 500 meals and it has now grown to 1000, as other families have seen the benefits, there are now more children in school.

In addition you also help support the micro economies of the island. What are the main economic areas for the Sumbanese and how do you help preserve these traditional economic activities?

The Sumbanese have a long history of agriculture. They have massive rice paddies that yield grain even through the dry season. Not only do they have white rice, but also red, and black. We help support traditional agricultural activities in our surrounding area.

The Ikat blankets, scarves, and sarongs the women in the village weave are also one of the main economic activities on the island. Even new ikat take about 2 weeks to complete and will be between 300-500k IDR for low end and upward to 2-3 million IDR for high end items. We like to encourage our guests to appreciate and purchase these items from local sources.

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To donate, please visit www.sumbafoundation.org/#/donate.

If you would like more information, please contact us at info@sumbafoundation.org.

Follow us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/sumbafoundation, twitter @sumbafndn, and instagram @sumbafndn.

 

 
 
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