Cash for Work : a humanitarian assistance?


Thanks God and pak fathul that I’ve got a chance to write in a language  that I need to practice after along time absent from my English daily report tasks. I know that it sounds ridiculous to push some big efforts to do things for your own good. Hmmm, it’s really my challenge.


The topic I want to write here may not be up-to-date anymore. It is no longer a hot issue, however, it has stayed in my mind for a longtime and asked me to write it up. Although It has gone through several discussions and chit-chat with my friends still it ended up unsatisfactorily. What come to my attention is how humanitarian assistance can change social structure, way of life, or even a culture of a community. We can learn from the others to make us better, right?


I knew the term “cash for work” when I worked in post disaster areas in Indonesia. The massive disaster had destroyed thousands of homes, livelihood, and people lives. Humanitarian assistance came from all over the world within different packaging, both software (psychosocial assistance, capacity building, health, etc) and hardware (temporary shelter, clothing, food, etc). Cash for work was given after the basic needs fulfilled or at least available. It aimed to support people to be economically independent by giving some cash after doing some tasks/work(let’s say “wage”).


It was a kind of very useful support which gave people freedom or authority to use it based on their needs. Soon It became the most favorable support people chose when they were asked kind of support which would be most useful for them. At first, it was like giving people opportunity to stand on their feet to rebuild their life. Hmmm, good education of being independent, people work to improve their life. Clear the rubbles of the mosque: cash for work, clear the rubbles of the schools: cash for work, build a village bridge: cash for work, then every public or community work is cash for work. Later on what surprising me was even to clean their own yard or house it has to be cash for work. Ups! It was for your own good and you did not want to do it unless you were paid for it! They said that cleaning the yard or clear the rubbles of their broken houses took their time to earn money and the asked compesantion on the time spending to do the work. Well, we can hold to build their house until they cleaned the rubbles on their own, but how much time did we need to wait until they were willing to do it? And most importantly, where does the slogan “gotong royong”, helpful people, and hand in hand go? Has money been so powerful to change people way of thinking and life? Has money been so powerful to buy people dignity? I understand that people need money, especially after experiencing big loss in their life, but not to be materialistic.


Actually I don’t want to put a blame on people or community of the new phenomena above. People just took the stimulant and followed the pattern created by system. I think we need to be more careful when giving assistance, especially humanitarian assistance. I realize that the objective of cash for work is for the shake of people or community development, but we need to carefully watch the implementation and analyse the long impact of the assistance. Will it create another dependancy? Will it change people way of thinking? Will it teach community good values?


I remember the policy of Sultan Jogja when Jogja was struck by erathquake. He said confirmly that all humanitarian organization is permitted to give assistance until 6 months from the earthquake. Temporary assitance will be worthy to help people learn to be more independent After that he suggested that people should learn to stand on their feet to be more independent to handle and face the problems. A good lesson indeed!


By: B. Novina Suprobo


~ by Novina Suprobo on September 20, 2008.

2 Responses to “Cash for Work : a humanitarian assistance?”

  1. Like this…never dream that the writter was sit next to me in SD Panjangan 1 about 30 years a go….

    • hahaha…… ingat jaman SD dulu seru yo….selalu eling aku duduk sebangku sama dirimu, poyok-poyok an terus, jare guru ku yang juga ibu ku, ben ketularan pintermu, hahaha….pa kabar win?

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