HUGS: Help Us Give Slings
Local Family Personalizes Tsunami Relief with Gift of Traditional Baby Carriers
by Jun-Nicole Matsushita
Two mothers at an IDP relief camp in Jakarta, with UN worker Masayoshi Matsushita(center), show the usefulness of their new baby carriers, knownas selendangs.
On December 26, 2004, my family woke up to the horrifying newsof the earthquake in Indonesia and the subsequent tsunami that caused devastationin Southeast Asia. We were particularly shocked since our father lives in Jakarta,Indonesia, as a representative of UNIDO (United Nations Industrial DevelopmentOrganization). Since we knew that he was on an island, we were extremely concerned.After contacting his office and obsessively reading the news, we finally heardfrom him a day later. He called to let us know that he was well and gettingready for the massive relief work that his office would be involved in.
A year prior, while pregnant with my first child, my husband and I visitedmy parents in Jakarta. I received a beautiful selendang baby sling and wasshown how to tie the carrier in its numerous holds. I observed mothers andfathers carrying their content babies with such ease and convenience. I decidedthen to carry my future child in the same manner. Since my father is Japanese,my parents carried me on their backs with the traditional Japanese onbuhimo.My son and I have enjoyed the same joys of using the selendang sling and onbuhimoback carrier. When he was an infant, I was able to complete my chores withmy son snuggled up against me either watching the goings-on or sleeping soundlyby the sound of my heartbeat. Now that he is bigger, I’ve switched himto my hip, where he loves to interact.
Since our family has such a convenient connection to Indonesia, we thoughtthat there must be something that we could do in the aftermath of thetsunami disaster. As many of you surely did, I enquired into ways thatI could provide aid, but was not satisfied with just sending money. Ifinally had a light-bulb moment and brought the two together: HUGS—HelpUs Give Slings.
This is our family’s attempt to contribute to the hundreds of motherswhose babies were born in the refugee camps, as well as our effort topromote the practice of “baby wearing” among parents in theU.S. My sister and I are selling the slings purchased in Jakarta herein Iowa City and Newnan, Georgia, where she lives, to raise funds andto teach mothers the art of using the traditional baby sling. So far wehave done this by word of mouth and within a small circle of friends;however, we hope to speak to any interested local groups or classes. Allmonies are sent back to our father in Jakarta, who has purchased moreslings. While he is on mission with UNIDO he distributes the slings tomothers living in refugee camps in tsunami-affected regions, where itis received as a useful and beautiful gift.
In an email message from our father dated July 13, he writes:
“In Banda Aceh, a UN colleague took me to one of IDP [InternallyDisplaced Persons] camps. . . . There were at least 10 babies. I had only7 baby slings but I gave each sling to mothers. All of them were so delightedwith the unexpected present. . . . There were a couple of mothers whowished to have but I did not have enough so I said that I would come back.
“I went to a local shop and bought 9 additional baby slingsand three of them were handed over to the UN colleague to deliver themto the same camp.
“That was the most delightful and pleasant present we have ever made.The cost of the sling is an extraordinary price for people living in thatkind of IDP camp. So the baby slings we provided were the essential butluxury gift to those mothers.”
The selendang baby sling is 100 percent cotton batik, and has many usesbeyond the traditional baby carrier—a blanket, sarong skirt, tablecloth,or wall hanging. You can purchase a selendang for yourself for $20, ora $5 donation will buy an Indonesian mother a new selendang.
For more information on selendangs, or to purchase or donate a sling,email the author at
or call (319) 430-6736.
The Selendang Baby Sling from Jakarta,Indonesia, is 100% cotton batik, 240cm x 90cm. Choose from: red, green,blue, or purple with white, blue, purple, and gold flowers, maroon orbronze with gold, green, purple, and blue flowers. The material is tied and adjusted to numerous holds and hasmany uses beyond the traditional baby carrier. We have used oursas a blanket, sun protection, and as a changing surface. The gorgeousprints could be used as a sarong skirt, table cloth, wall hanging.
Babywearing information: Articles advocating the benefits of babywearingkellymom.com/parenting/sling.html
Selendang background information: beginnings.org/shop/knoopdoeken_selendang.htm
Major sling and baby carrier retailer, with slinginformation: peppermint.com
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