'I want to lift the vulnerable out of poverty'

Marthen Malo wanted originally to be a pastor in order to help the poor on his home island of Indonesia where possible. Today, he lives out his “care gene” in Afghanistan, where he leads Mission East's relief efforts.

Marthen Malo is Mission East's head of programs in Afghanistan. When we catch him on Teams he is staying in Faizabad. From here, he coordinates all of Mission East's relief efforts in the country's two northern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.

- We have reached out with emergency aid to about 10,000 families since New Year. Despite various challenges, it seems that we are reaching far more people with emergency aid this year than last year. The work is growing in step with the increasing needs and more inquiries from the local communities. Before, we focused on six districts; today we work in 15 districts, he says.

Water, food and strengthening the civil society

Mission East distributes emergency aid by “cash for food”, as well as hygiene kits, NFIs, shelter repairing, Corona protection equipment and help to recover from war. In addition, the population's opportunities to support itself are strengthened through, for example, agriculture, reforestation, beekeeping, livestock – poultry and the establishment of small businesses. Mission East also ensures water and sanitation and strengthens civil society by engaging local associations and organizations.

- We are currently strengthening four local partner organizations in their capacity to help their own people. We give them grants and guide them in their work, says Marthen Malo.

"If only I could save my people!"

He is originally from a poor island in eastern Indonesia and had originally planned to be a pastor. But his family was so poor that they could not afford to send him to university. Instead, he vented his urge to help people through local NGOs.

- We were so poor. So I prayed to God for a way out and promised that I would travel all over the world if only I could save my people!

Since then, he got more and more involved, got more responsibility and ended up in the international NGO community:

- I worked in Afghanistan for six years before joining Mission East, he says.

People have bigger problems than Corona

How is the situation in the country right now?

- The security situation has deteriorated. Different population groups are fighting each other. And the government has neither the finance nor enough people to ensure that leadership of the country reaches all the way to the remote districts. People are hungry and it is difficult to withdraw money as the banking systems are out of order.

And Corona?

- People do not care about Corona, because they have bigger problems. They lack food for living. So they do not feel Corona is nearly as dangerous. Not in relation to war, food shortages and lack of pretty much everything. There are no adequate health services other than those existing facilitated by the UN and international NGOs.

"I Fulfill My Call Through Mission East"

Marthen Malo is happy to be able to help the Afghan people through Mission East. His own poor upbringing motivates him:

- I myself grew up on a very poor island in Indonesia, but international NGOs helped us through the crises. Yes, it is difficult to work in Afghanistan. I have also worked in several African countries and in Haiti. But that's our calling from God, right?

- When I help in Afghanistan, it is also an expression of my faith and my call to help the poor on behalf of God. I am fulfilling my calling through Mission East.

How do people feel about you having a different background than them?

- The Afghan people are very nice, as long as we do not touch on their religion, their culture or sensitive issues such as politics, girls' and women's rights. Then it works fine, whether we are Christians or Buddhists, Marthen Malo smiles.

Runs cooperatives at home

Although he is busy leading Mission East projects in the 15 districts of Takhar and Badakhshan, he has not forgotten his own people back home in Indonesia.

- I try to save up my salary so I can do something for the poor in our church in my home area. I have set up cooperatives in connection with the church that can help the most vulnerable people. Thousands of peoples including poor women are being helped out of poverty.

- So when I return home on my annual vacation, I'm really busy helping the poor. There is not much time to relax!

Mission Øst Afghanistan Nødhjælp

Water, food and strengthening the civil society

Mission East distributes emergency aid by “cash for food”, as well as hygiene kits, NFIs, shelter repairing, Corona protection equipment and help to recover from war. In addition, the population's opportunities to support itself are strengthened through, for example, agriculture, reforestation, beekeeping, poultry and the establishment of small businesses. Mission East also ensures water and sanitation and strengthens civil society by engaging local associations and organizations.

- We are currently strengthening four local partner organizations in their capacity to help their own people. We give them grants and guide them in their work, says Marthen Malo.

"If only I could save my people!"

He is originally from a poor island in eastern Indonesia and wanted actually be a pastor. But his family was so poor that they could not afford to send him to university. Instead, he vented his urge to help people through local NGOs.

- We were so poor. So I prayed to God for a way out and promised that I would travel all over the world if only I could save my people!

Since then, he got more and more involved, got more responsibility and ended up in the international NGO community:

- I worked in Afghanistan for six years before joining Mission East, he says.

People have bigger problems than Corona

How is the situation in the country right now?

- The security situation has deteriorated. Different population groups are fighting each other. And the government has neither enough economy nor staff to lead the country all the way to the remote districts. People are hungry and it is difficult to withdraw money as the banking systems are out of order.

And Corona?

- People do not care about Corona, because they have bigger problems. They lack food for survival. So they do not feel Corona is near as dangerous. Not in relation to war, food shortages and lack of pretty much everything. There are no adequate health services other than those existing facilitated by the UN and international NGOs.

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"I fulfill my calling through Mission East"

Marthen Malo is happy to be able to help the Afghan people through Mission East. His own poor upbringing motivates him:

- I myself grew up on a very poor island in Indonesia, but international NGOs helped us through the crises. Yes, it is difficult to work in Afghanistan. I have also worked in several African countries and in Haiti. But that's our calling from God, right?

- When I help in Afghanistan, it is also an expression of my faith and my calling to help the poor on behalf of God. I am fulfilling my calling through Mission East.

How do people feel about you having a different background than them?

- The Afghan people are very nice, as long as we do not touch on their religion, their culture or sensitive issues such as politic, girls' and women's rights. Then it works fine, whether we are Christians or Buddhists, Marthen Malo smiles.

Runs cooperatives at home

Although he is busy leading Mission East projects in the 15 districts of Takhar and Badakhshan, he has not forgotten his own people back home in Indonesia.

- I try to save up my salary so I can do something for the poor in our church in my home area. I have set up cooperatives that can help the most vulnerable people. Thousands of peoples including poor women are being helped out of poverty.

- So when I return home on my annual vacation, I'm really busy helping the poor. There is not much time to relax!

Picture: Marthen Malo with a orphaned baby girl in Haiti. She liked to come and meet regularly just to say "hello". - It's one of my best memories from Haiti, says Marthen.

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