A FORMER Bute resident has paid tribute this week to the island’s efforts in helping to relieve poverty on an Indonesian island almost eight thousand miles away.
Karen Vivers, who now lives in the Netherlands, is closely involved with the Rupingh Foundation, a charity set up 12 years ago by her husband Leo to raise money for the children of Flores.
The charity’s efforts, and the support given by residents of Bute, were featured in The Buteman in February 2010 – and Karen has now got back in touch to publicly thank the island for giving its backing to the foundation’s work.
She singled out St Andrew’s Primary School and Apple Tree Nursery for their hard work in organising bake sales and donations of clothes to support the cause.
“It’s been a real privilege to have people on Bute giving their time and money to the foundation,” Karen told us.
“I’m very aware that on Bute you’re constantly asking the same people to donate to an awful lot of good causes, so I wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been involved.”
The link between the Rupingh Foundation – whose chairman is Karen’s husband Leo Verdurmen – and Bute was established after Karen began making increasingly regular visits to the island to look after her mother, Mairi, after she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was going back and forward to Bute a lot,” Karen continued, “and the visits weren’t particularly nice ones, so it was a great distraction to be able to go to the local schools and talk about something else.
“It also helped my mum through her illness – sorting and folding donations of clothes was one of the things that helped take her mind off things.”
Now, 13 months after Mairi’s death, on June 10, 2010, Karen told us she wanted to thank the community on Bute on the charity’s behalf for their support.
Last time Karen’s work featured in The Buteman, the focus of the Rupingh Foundation’s work was on building the infrastructure needed to improve educational provision on Flores.
Now the charity’s volunteer workers have shifted their gaze to improving healthcare facilities on the island – which at present are basic, at best.
“If we provide the infrastructure, the Indonesian government will provide the nurses,” Karen continued.
“The medical facilities needed on Flores are for crisis things, such as births, malaria, leprosy and things like that, and the government will provide basic medication to give those who are sick some level of comfort.
“You couldn’t compare nurses on Flores with nurses here – many of them are nuns who come to Europe for basic care and hygiene training – but at least if we put the building there it provides somewhere clean for people to come and get basic care.”
The Rupingh Foundation’s volunteers also help provide those living on Flores with better water supplies and improved access to basic amenities through the building of new roads.
In addition, the charity is currently working with the Dutch government to look at ways of establishing a ‘micro-credit’ scheme where, for example, a Flores family could be loaned a small sum, such as £100, to buy two goats to help support them.
“Leo’s uncle started the charity after going on holiday to Indonesia and meeting a tour guide who told him about the situation on Flores,” Karen added.
“He saw the side of Indonesia that they don’t usually like to show to visitors, and he decided he had to do something to help.
“So he built a water pump in a small village, using donations from the family, and it just grew from there.”