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Bathing water project, Madura, Indonesia, 2000

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Informal refugee assistance program, Madura.

Experience of Chris Watkins (Chriswaterguy) liasing with a refugee community, working with an informal charity. March-April 2000.

Informal assistance program run by a group of Indonesians, Australians and Americans based in Surabaya, East Java.

The problem[edit]

Lack of adequate clean water and bathing in a polluted creek had resulted in widespread skin irritation (itch) in the community.

The approach[edit]

Consultation with the community, discussing their problem, explaining various options and sharing knowledge, resulted in a water filter design drawing on traditional knowledge (using sugar palm fibre). The filter was built by members of the community, with assistance from the Surabaya group by purchasing materials.

The resulting water was found to be clean and pleasing to those who used it for bathing.


Later unfortunate experiences of vandalism (related to the low social status of the refugees) led to important lessons for future projects, including the value of a portable filter design.


The assistance program included many other aspects and continued over at least two years. However, it has not been possible to obtain updated information, as the original contacts are no longer in Surabaya, and messages have not received a response.