Keeping the Village Safe During COVID-19
By Tri Soekirman
Shortly after Photovoices project in Semanting finished, COVID-19 hit and was officially declared by the WHO as a global pandemic. While the initial Photovoices project had ended, Photovoices participants were actually among the first to volunteer in helping the village government mobilize an awareness program and participated in keeping the village safe.
The participants initiated a dedicated volunteering group called the POTRET Community, which also included members outside of the Photovoices program. The community documented and held critical discussions on how the pandemic is impacting life in the village, specifically on issues such as fisheries, education, and health during the one-month project.
POTRET Community, along with 47 members of the community, also helped the village government in informing the villagers about the disease and setting up health protocols for COVID-19 in the village.
Throughout the project, they found several areas of concern:
The village government, with help from the volunteers, had installed hand-washing stations in front of people’s houses, as well as in several strategic spots in the village, to make sure that local villagers followed the health protocols. However, every day, the villagers have their vegetables and fruits delivered from Tanjung Redeb, a small town near Semanting. The volunteers felt the need to continually remind buyers to be careful when buying fruits and vegetables and to wash their hands after handling the produce immediately.
Since the pandemic hit, the price of fish and prawns had dropped significantly and most villagers who depended on fisheries as their livelihood, including those who produced and sold fish crackers, found the situation challenging. As orders continued to decrease, the villagers had to stop their production, yet they were also worried that the remaining products they have would pass the expiry dates.
Since the schools are closed during the pandemic, most teachers provided lessons and weekly assignments through WhatsApp Chat Group. The online learning aspect had been very challenging for the villagers due to the lack of facilities and infrastructure. Many villagers did not own mobile phones with internet access or did not have the funds to buy data packages. They are worried that the students from Teluk Semanting will lag behind students from other villages.