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After the volcano: From displaced person to business woman

An Indonesian woman displaced after a volcanic eruption opened a successful business after ILO training on financial education and entrepreneurship.

Feature | 18 August 2016
Susiyanti Br Sembiring
KARO DISTRICT, Indonesia (ILO News) - In her small shop, Susiyanti Br Sembiring is busy serving hot black coffees to her customers.

Located at the shelter for refugees of the Mt. Sinabung, Karo District of North Sumatra, her small shop provides daily needs, including beverages and vegetables. Thanks to her business, she can support her family and no longer needs to rely on government assistance.

Sembiring can even spare some money for saving. Now, she has a saving account at Credit Union Sondang Nauli with monthly compulsory saving of minimum IDR 30,000.

“I even manage to save for my three children’s education. Every month, I also save IDR 300,000 to support their education in the future,” she said proudly.

Susiyanti was one of the 15,000 people in Karo District who had to leave her village – Gurukinayan - due to the eruption of Mt. Sinabung in 2013.

Mt. Sinabung continues to experience high volcanic activity.

“The eruption destroyed the whole village. I had lost the 8-hectare of agricultural land that was the main source of my family income,” she recalled, remembering the day she and her family had to leave.

Destruction to Gurukinayan village caused by the eruption of Mt. Sinabung
The eruption forced her family to live in camp in Kabanjahe, the capital of Karo District.

During her displacement in the camp, Susiyanti worked as a farm worker to support her family and her husband also found a job as local public transport driver. As a farm worker she got paid IDR 60,000 per day, but she did not work every day and then, only on demand.

In 2015, she heard about a joint ILO-FAO-UNDP programme supported by New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency to help local communities getting back to their livelihoods. She immediately signed up to join the ILO’s training on Financial Education and Entrepreneurship using GET Ahead module.

“Now I know how to keep a financial record, to prioritize expenses, and to carefully spend money, especially during a difficult time like this,” she said.

“The ILO has selected trainings that were relevant with local needs and context so that they could own and apply what they have learned for rising from disaster and for a better living,” explained Aidil Azhari, the ILO’s Project Officer for the joint project, “The Sinabung Recovery Support Programme” (SIRESUP).

“These trainings focused not only on life skills and income generation, but also on mind-set and behaviour change. We hope that people of Sinabung can benefit from basic entrepreneurial skills and shift to more sustainable entrepreneurial activities in the long term,” he said.

A new shop in the shelter area

In July 2015, Susiyanti’s family received a donation from the government for housing and renting agricultural land for a total amount of IDR 3,800,000. After receiving the donation, she moved to temporary shelter provided by a local NGO named Jenggala, 6 km from Mt. Sinabung and close to Gurukinayan village.

Now I know how to keep a financial record, to prioritize expenses, and to carefully spend money, especially during a difficult time like this"

Based on what she had learnt at the ILO training, she used the funds not only to rent agricultural land, but also to starting her own business, a small shop located in the shelter area. The GET Ahead training has improved Susiyanti’s knowledge on how to run her small business. She is now able to calculate the profit from her expenditure every week/month which she had never done before.

“Previously, I could only buy and sell. I did not know exactly how much my profit was. But now from expenditure every week or month, I know exactly how much I get from each item sold,” she said.

Since the starting of her small shop, her daily profit is approximately IDR 150,000. She is also more certain about her future, especially for her family and her three children.

“The eruption made me lose my business and land; yet the eruption has also given me the opportunity to learn about business and finance and has made me a better business woman,” she concluded with a big smile on her face.