Cilacap Mission, Java, Indonesia

In 1972 the Australian Oblates (“OMIs”) established a mission in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia. Cilacap was and still is a poor town with little infrastructure and great poverty. Cilacap has a current population of 200,000 with a further 1.6 million people living in the greater surrounding area. Java is one of the most populated islands in the world and continues to this day to experience great poverty.  

While the initial focus of the OMIs was to convert locals to Christianity it soon became clear post Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) that the Church's focus on building the Kingdom of God meant that the missionaries were to be missionaries to all people of all faiths. Initial projects initiated by the OMIs centred on education and 26 new schools were built in the town with financial assistance from the OMIs. The schools were/are interdenominational and welcome children of all faiths.

The Catholic congregation grew all the time in Cilacap as people witnessed the work of the OMIs. Conversions to Christianity were carried out by people “witnessing” the work of the church rather than the church preaching to non-Christians. Today, there is one large church in Cilacap and a small church on the outskirts of the town which was built to cater for the growing congregation. 
Fr Charlie Burrows (known locally as Romo Carolus) arrived in Cilacap in 1973. He helped with the building of the schools and a Catholic hospital in the town. During this time, it became clear to Fr Charlie that in order to deliver on projects in a timely manner and within tight financial constraints (corruption was an issue at this time), the church would need to have its own fleet of trucks. Fr Charlie purchased trucks to help build roads to the surrounding villages which were only accessible by boat or dirt track (which was almost impassable in the wet season). Over time, he built up a fleet of 45 trucks and most of them are still in operation today.

Fr Charlie soon realised that to get anything done, it would have to be done independently of local companies so as to avoid corruption and so Fr Charlie’s entrepreneurial spirit shone through leading to the foundation as it is today. 

The OMIs and the Foundation have been successful in Cilacap through hard work, financial assistance from MAMI and other overseas donors and in more recent times through the interfaith dialogue with the local Muslim community. The relationship between both faiths is excellent and continues to grow. 

The foundation also enjoys an excellent relationship with local and national government given their 40 years of commitment to Cilacap and Indonesia. The foundation has met with many ministers and politicians over the years. 

Structure – Foundation Y.S.B.S  
Given the number of projects undertaken by the mission in Cilacap, a charitable foundation was established to manage the projects centrally and ensure each project has a strong legal basis. The foundation was also a mechanism to receive aid from overseas. The foundation is called Yayasan Social Bina Sejahtera (Y.S.B.S.) which in English is “the Foundation for bringing about Prosperity and Goodwill”. 

Projects to date:

  • Schools Programme – a total of 26 schools have been built over 40 years by the OMIs in Cilacap

  • Hospital programme – a Catholic hospital was built in the 1970’s and is still in operation today, owned and managed by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart.

  • Roads/infrastructure programme – one of the first projects undertaken was a road-building programme to make villages in the  surrounding area accessible. This programme continues to this day with a fleet of trucks owned by the Foundation based in Cilacap.  Approximately 200 villages (out of 280 villages) are now linked to Cilacap by roads built through the foundation; this has had a positive  impact on 300,000 people who live in the 200 villages.  

  • People's Bank – In recent years the foundation co-founded a people’s bank. The purpose of the people’s bank is to lend money to anybody who needs financial assistance and also to help students fund their third level education and to lend money to women’s groups and local businesses. The People's bank has the ability to lend to local businesses who need capital following a natural disaster, as was the case following a recent earthquake. This bank is regulated by the Central Bank of Indonesia and audited on an annual basis.

  • Women’s Group Co-Op – People’s Bank provides loans to local women’s groups which allow them to supplement the low family income.  

  • Maritime Academy – the foundation took over running the Academy Maritime Nusantara (AMN) in 1991. The Academy educates and trains cadets for work as officers in the shipping industry worldwide.

  • Trucking Company – the foundation continues to run the trucking company with a fleet of older trucks (20) used for road building and  a fleet of modern trucks (25) used for Haulage of materials, cement etc and the foundation charges a daily rate for the use of these  trucks, all profits are used to subsidise the schools. There are a team of mechanics who maintain the trucks and all old trucks are used for spare parts on retirement. 

  • Reforestation of land -  the foundation is involved in reforesting land on the island of Nusakambangan which is off the coast of Cilacap.  This  12,500 hectare island is being reforested under the direction of the foundation in a joint venture with the Department of Justice  (the island is home to seven prisons) whereby the foundation manages the flora and fauna on the island through sustainable agriculture and reforestation.  

  • Education Programmes – the foundation runs a number of education programmes at schools throughout the region in areas such as agriculture, sewing, horticulture and mechanics. These courses are run from five vocational schools built by the OMIs and the AMN.  For  example, in 2009, a mechanics course was set up at Kawunganten Vocational School where the foundation built a new workshop with funding from the OMIs in Ireland. A dressmaking course was set up in 2011 in Majenang Vocational School again with financial assistance from the Mission Cura. As well as vocational training, the foundation also funds scholarships for 200 High School kids every three years. 

  • Ad Hoc Programmes – disaster relief programmes have been established as required. Java has had numerous natural disasters such as two Tsunamis (2004 and 2006), earthquakes and landslides. The foundation is able to distribute aid quickly as it is on the ground and has the transport means to do so and the local contacts in the villages.

Student Loan Programme – Academy Maritime Nusantara (AMN)

 In 1991, the foundation took over the running of the AMN. The AMN trains cadets for a career in the shipping industry. The Cadets are trained in a modern building with state of the art maritime equipment. The facility is audited by the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) and has approval to train for Ship Engineers and Maritime Science. The ship bridge replicates a ship bridge on the largest ships in the world and allows cadets to train in a “simulator” environment. The IMO were so impressed with the facility, the Director General visited the Academy in 2011. Cadets from the AMN graduate as 2nd Mate and 2nd Mate Engineer. Cadets, upon graduation, earn approximately 5,000,000 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah / approx 400 euro) per month on Indonesian ships and they can earn as much as 21,250,000 IDR ($1,750) per month on German ships. 
The training programme is for three years and encompasses all aspects of maritime training from safety through technical education through to English studies. Once cadets graduate, the AMN places them with reputable shipping companies in Jakarta, Surabaya and Batam (all in Indonesia). By managing the placement of cadets, the AMN ensures cadets are paid as all potential shipping companies are vetted by the AMN.
Children from well off families are not interested in a life of sea-faring because of the obvious sacrifices and dangers involved. The AMN cadet intake is from lower income families throughout Indonesia, not just from the island of Java. Given that Indonesia consists of a nation of islands, the government is placing great emphasis on the building up of a modern fleet manned by trained officers of international standards. 
There is a shortage of maritime graduates worldwide. Given most potential cadets are from poor families, the foundation has instigated a “Student Loan Programme” which allows students to train as a 2nd mate or 2nd engineer at the AMN.  

The People’s Bank

A key aspect to the foundation's work, and in particular the student loan programme at the AMN, is the People’s Bank. The Foundation owns 45% of the Bank with 55% owned by a company owned by the Catholic Relief Services USA.  
CRS is a strong joint-venture partner for the People’s Bank. The Bank is fully regulated by the Central Bank of Indonesia and is audited by a highly reputable firm of accountants. Full financial statements are available for review if required. Each director of the Bank has passed “fitness to practice” tests completed by the Central Bank of Indonesia. 
The Bank is a social bank, it assists less well-off people with an aim of “poverty reduction” through the provision of Micro-Credit. Most loans are very small (less than 400 euros) and are directed at small businesses in Cilacap, women’s group co-ops and the student loan programme.

The Future

Cilacap is slowing modernising as a city with improvements in all aspects of daily life. Poverty is still an issue for Indonesia and the People’s Bank will play an important role in ensuring the availability of microfinance in the future for both individuals, groups, companies and students. 
Recognising the changing needs of the local community, the foundation is now focusing on the Peoples Bank and education programmes for the young. The foundation is particularly interested in sustainable farming principles and continues to fund scholarships for students to attend vocational training programmes in agriculture. 

To support the continued mission in Cilacap, please donate below.