Rebuilding Hope

Rebuilding Hope

Compassion's Ongoing Indonesian Tsunami Relief

By: Sean Sheridan, Contributing Writer   |   Posted: March 20, 2005

For children who lost parents in the tsunami or whose families are now displaced, home is now one of the many survivor camps. At the Blang Bintang camp in the Banda Aceh region, children have the opportunity to stay abreast of their education in this makeshift interim school.

It has been two months since a massive tsunami hammered coastal regions in Asia and Indonesia, killing more than 226,000 unsuspecting people and leaving millions homeless. Despite unprecedented relief efforts, nothing will soon restore the life that was washed away by the killer waves.

Yet for many survivors, the pain of December 26, 2004, is finally subsiding. The land is at long last drying out, there is a growing sense of hope and life is returning to at least a remnant of what it once was.

"We are very happy to see how food and goods have rescued so many families in the camps we serve," says Dr. Bambang Budijanto, Compassion Asia Area Director. "However our prayer is to see a deeper impact in their lives that will last for a long time."

This desire for a deeper affect is why Compassion continues to provide not only emergency relief and restoration efforts but long-term child development through sponsorship in Indonesia. Progressing through relief and rescue to rebuilding and restoration is definitely paying dividends.

Beyond Relief

An assortment of relief items are being distributed to families and individuals in need:

         Baby food
         Bottled water 
         Boxes of milk 
         Cooking oil 
         Energy drinks 
         Rice
         Sardines
         Kitchen kits (buckets, rice pots, woks, spoons and plates)
         Kerosene stoves 
         Kerosene
         Mats 
         Mosquito repellent 
         Oil lamps 
         Plastic tents
         Underwear

But for Compassion, providing relief has not stopped there.

"By God's grace, we have seen significant impact on the ground," says Bambang. "The evidence of a strong bond developing between some families at the camps and our staff is very encouraging."

As relationships grow, so does the rebuilding and restoration efforts. Compassion's operations in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, are now based out of a rented four-bedroom home. Another nearby facility has been rented to serve as the project warehouse. Educating displaced children has become a focus.

In Blang Bintang survivor camp, Compassion's children's activities grew into an interim K-12 school with some 50 students. One of the survivors, a teacher, has joined the Compassion team and has been given an honorarium. The team is starting another interim kindergarten and elementary school at nearby Lempuyan camp.

"These children's activities and the interim school program have proved to be a most effective means to deepen the bond between our team and the refugees," Bambang says. "One of the teachers had to leave Aceh for Jakarta and the children all wept and held her so tight, she almost missed her flight."

For those who are now able to go back to their own schools, Compassion is providing limited scholarships that cover transportation costs and lunches. School uniforms, shoes and school bags have also been distributed to the students. There are more than 400 children enrolled in the scholarship program and a total of 1,000 are expected.

Restoring Hope

As emergency relief efforts wind down, Compassion teams increasingly focus on providing seed money to restore businesses and income-generating activities for parents who lost their livelihoods in the tsunami.

Compassion is supplying clean water tanks in project camps and villages and working with the water companies to supply clean water to those camps. "Training the trainer" on post-trauma counseling is underway. Participants will in turn train local staff in post-trauma counseling.

The Compassion team is discussing ways to support rebuilding two villages on the Breueh Island. Immediate needs include rebuilding the destroyed pier, providing access to the island and repairing a boat and equipment to speed up the cleanup process. The plan also allows for supplying two new fishing boats for livelihood restoration as well as building water and sanitation systems and some road and public facilities.   

In March, the Blang Bintang camp will be relocated to a permanent location and Compassion will help rebuild two other villages on Breueh Island. In addition, Compassion will continue with interim schools and children's activities, scholarships, livelihood restoration and monitoring and addressing any food and food-related needs. It is estimated that this next round of project implementations will take three to nine months.

"I witnessed how the interactions in the last few weeks have produced a genuine relationship between many refugees and our team members," Bambang says. "Some of our staff have testified how they encountered some refugees who were surprised to know that Christians are not evil or bad as they had been taught before. At the same time, some of the staff were also surprised to find out that the people of Aceh are not filled with hatred toward the non-Muslims as they had heard."

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