Oangkalla, Pantar Island, Alor
Have you ever heard of Oangkalla? It is a remote village located in the village of Mauta on the island of Pantar, Alor Regency. In this small and secluded bay is the village of Oangkalla, which is inhabited by 24 families with 82 inhabitants. Even though it is located on the beach, the people of Oangkalla Village are more dependent on gardens and fields. They are actually quite capable of going to sea, but they do not have sufficient means to navigate the sea. Of course, a small boat is not enough to make a living as a fisherman. That’s why they prefer machetes and simple tools for gardening and farming.
IT TAKES COURAGE TO VISIT OANGKALLA
Visiting this remote village is not easy. To reach Pantar island from Alor island, it’d take one to travel four hours by boat across the strait where the sea is not calm. Upon reaching the shore, there’s another hour of land travel to reach Beang beach which is adjacent to Oangkalla Bay. The two adjacent bays are separated by a peninsula stretching to nearly 3 kilometers of rocky hills.
Visiting this village by land is also not an easy choice. One has to go through trails up and down rocky hills. To arrive at Oangkalla, the journey continues by boat from Beang along the coast around the headland. This is a relatively more comfortable option.
SCHOOL UP THE ROCKY HILLS
There are twenty-two children in Oangkalla who are of school-age. Fifteen of them are in elementary, six are in junior high school, and the other two are in high school. All parents want their children to go to school, but unfortunately there are no schools in this remote village.
The closest elementary school there is, is in Beang. However, it is quite impossible for them to go to school in a small boat. They are too small and too dangerous, and there are not enough canoes to accommodate all the children. So, these children have to take the difficult route by road, along rocky paths up and down steep hills for about 3 km.
To commute back and forth everyday via this rocky route would take a toll on the children’s feet. As a result, they do not go to school every day. If they are not in school, they join their parents to the farm. Despite their parents having high hopes for their children to have a better future, it is difficult for them to regularly attend school. Middle and high school-aged children have to study away from their parents. Currently, five junior high students and one high school student live with their relatives and study in the city of Kalabahi. Two junior and senior high school-aged youth remain in the village.
NO HEALTH FACILITIES
Their situation becomes even more uncertain when someone gets sick. It is even more difficult if the sick person is unable to walk. There are no health facilities and personnel in Oangkalla. So, whenever someone gets sick they would have to use a small boat to transport the sick to Beang with caution, where there is only one Village Health Post (Poskesdes) with one nurse. If the situation requires more serious medical attention and treatment they would have to go to the Community Health Center (Puskesmas), and they would have to wait for favorable sea conditions to allow them to travel by a small boat which takes about half a day to row to reach the Community Health Center located in Tamalabang – the nearest Puskesmas to Oangkalla.
A MULTIPURPOSE BOAT AS AN IMMEDIATE SOLUTION
In such a difficult condition, having a multipurpose boat will help ease the problem of the residents even for a while. Although it is clear that ideally for a road to be constructed to allow residents to travel by land using a motorbike from Beang to Oangkalla. It would also be great if a school can be put up and have teachers assigned in the area, but all of these may take some time to be realized. Thus, a multipurpose boat is the best possible way to help the residents of Oangkalla.
The multipurpose boat can be used to shuttle children to school, to transport sick people to the Puskesmas and at the same time allow fisher folks catch more fish. If they are able to catch more fish, it will help improve their economic condition.
This multipurpose boat will definitely be of great help to the residents. The boat has to be big enough to carry dozens of elementary school-age children everyday.
The dream of having a multipurpose boat will soon be realized. From the savings that have been made, the dream of having a multipurpose boat will soon become a reality. The boat will serve as a school transportation for the school children; as a mini-ambulance for sick people; and as a vehicle for them to catch more fish to help improve families’ economy.
End of August this year, Mama Yosefina Blejur, Mama Jeni Jalla Puas, Mama Robia Leky and Mama Sauda Koly all went to Tasi and Talwai villages in Alor for 4 days and 3 nights to learn to assemble solar powered lamps. They were taught by Mama Meri, Mama Susana and Mama Ariance, all of whom are alumni of the 6-Month Training on Solar Electrification in India. The said Program was part of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) in collaboration with the Embassy of India in Jakarta, Barefoot College International and Wadah Foundation. After 4 days of training, all 4 women from Oangkalla were able to learn to assemble and make the solar lanterns operational. They prayed to the Almighty that may they be granted a boat that will serve as a bridge towards education; a bridge of health, and a bridge to light Oangkalla – a bridge of hope.