Ten years ago, this week, I was getting ready to go to Banda Aceh, Indonesia to evaluate how our team could contribute to the recovery of that city after the devastation of the 9.2 earthquake and ensuing Tsunami which took the lives of over
This boat was 4 miles inland
170,000 people and displacing another 150,000 in this region alone.
On that Christmas Day back in 2004, I heard the news of the earthquake and my thoughts went to my coworker Hengky who had gone to that city the day before to celebrate Christmas with his wife’s family. For a few agonizing days I could not find them anywhere and then word came that they were safe in Medan, a safe distance south of the affected area.
I had no idea what we could do to help but I knew that I had to go and express the love of God to this, one of the most closed Muslim communities in the country.
I flew to Jakarta and then found a flight on January 19th to the devastated city. I flew with mostly emergency workers. There was nothing that could have prepared me for what I was about to witness.
Stunned with all we saw
Bodies were still awaiting burial in one of the many mass grave sites. The smell of death penetrated everything.
I joined a group of locals who tirelessly had given of their time to help recover bodies and guide people who were coming to help. As I walked towards the beach right in the city, I looked out into a calm seas in an beautiful evening adorned by a stunning sunset. I tried in vain to imagine, just a few days before, folks standing on the same area watching waves up to 100 feet high coming at fantastic speeds towards them. It was all so unthinkable but I was standing in the rubble of what was once a busy community and beyond me stood the light house tower which has lost the large lamp that sat 90 feet up.
In partnership with United Nations Volunteers, a group of five local organizations developed TRIBAL
Our evaluation team
(Tsunami Rehabilitation In Banda Aceh Livelihood). Our contribution focused on Trauma Training. We trained 610 children (50% girls), 26 teachers (45% female) and 413 parents (50% female) on how to cope and help others deal with their fears. Here is the UN evaluation.
The TRIBAL project also built 700 homes and trained folks with new job skills so that they could face life with new skills.
Today, Banda Aceh
is thriving and has been totally rebuilt. The roads are wide and the communities are living in peace with themselves and the power of the sea right next to them.
This experience led us in Next Step to explore fresh ways to relate with the Muslim community in Indonesia. The PERTIWI MicroLoan project in Medan benefits from the many lessons we have learned over these last years.