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Batua acts as ‘living lab’ for RISE’s safe restart with communities

3 November 2020

It was the first neighbourhood in Indonesia to be revitalised with RISE’s water and sanitation infrastructure. Now, after more than six months of paused field work, Batua is the living lab for restarting community work in a COVID-19 world.

In October, the outdoor deck of Community Engagement Council leader Ibu Suneti was the site for a series of safety training sessions with small groups of residents.

The trainings were an opportunity for residents to listen to, and ask questions about the health and safety precautions RISE will be taking when returning to field work in the coming weeks and months.

Residents heard about the importance of maintaining a safe distance from RISE fieldworkers, including children, who used to happily follow the team around the settlements during research visits before the pandemic.

For Maghfira Saifuddaolah, RISE’s Batua Project Laboratory and Field Monitoring Lead, running the training was bittersweet: a chance to reconnect in-person with the community, but having to make clear that field visits will look different to before.

‘Before the pandemic, residents in Batua felt very connected with the RISE teams,’ she reflects. ‘When we visited them for the training, the residents asked where the other RISE staff were! They were also a bit surprised when we showed them the PPE that our workers will be wearing when coming to take water and wastewater samples from septic tanks’.

RISE Batua Project Manager Muhamad Faisol, who co-led the trainings, said that the timing of the sessions was significant as well.

‘We ran the training over Global Handwashing Day (15 October),’ he says. ‘The community was very interested in joining the training, and it gave them more of an understanding of how to keep safe from COVID-19’.

The trainings are the culmination of a specially developed COVID-19 Safety Protocol. The Protocol, developed over weeks by Makassar and Melbourne teams, seeks to protect the health of everyone involved in RISE in Makassar, while putting measures in place for staff to keep moving forward with research activities in settlements and laboratories.

As well as engaging with residents, training for RISE staff and construction crew working on the infrastructure intervention at Batua has also been critical to operationalise the Protocol.

The COVID-19 Safety Protocol sets out clear processes for staff to safely resume field research in informal settlements.

Clear and comprehensive safety measures represent RISE’s commitment to meet head-on the the demands for new ways of working. Creatively adapting and developing new ways of working to ensure research continuity has been a defining challenge for RISE to meet in 2020.

Planning the safe return to field work has also seen some of the most intensive collaboration between the program’s Assessment teams (Objectives 2 – 5) and Intervention team (Objective 1), and demanded a new level of accountability for RISE Makassar on the ground.

As coronavirus continues to spread in Makassar and wider Indonesia, RISE will continue adapting safely but steadily to new ways of working, in order to deliver improved water and sanitation for the program’s 12 informal settlement communities.

Screening and hygiene zones will be a feature of RISE's community work in Makassar moving forward.