Home improvement
by Chris Soebroto, PLAN International Indonesia

Recently reconstructed house (with local materials) after the original one was destroyed by a fire, PU Sumbawa, Indonesia
One of the most popular projects and one of the easiest to 'deliver' is no doubt Home Improvement. One of the enrollment selection criteria was the quality of the house. In Java with their spacious but dark and damp traditional houses, home improvement has been a popular project for the last 31 years and sometimes caused PLAN to gain an image of 'the construction company'. PLAN is moving eastwards to the remote islands where many houses are in poor condition often leaning to one side because of poor construction. Yet, home improvement in the eastern provinces is not the most popular project. One reason is that Indonesia's CSP no longer looks positively at 'giving' projects. The other cause is that the Families don't want us to improve their homes.
That's right. Families don't want a beautiful house. That's dangerous they say, because beautiful houses attract thieves and burglars. Entering their shaky home it is obvious that the family is not poor: tv set, nice furniture, books, magazines, motorbike in the back yard, VCD player. Instead of beautifying their house the families in the island of Sumbawa prefer to send their kids to school and to buy more land or cattle.
In Timor many families are reluctant to improve their homes for a different reason. They explain that they are part of a very extensive family and that one person's assets are the assets of the entire family. If one relative has a debt the entire family shares the debt. So, they say, it is better not to become too wealthy, because then we have to share it with everybody and my wealth is used to pay off the debts of relatives.
For more information, email Chris Soebroto - soebrotc@plan.geis.com