Saturday, December 26, 2009

It is more blessed to give - Aceh 5 Years after the Tsunami

Ground Zero @ Aceh - April 2006
Who could get over the sad headlines and haunting images from the news agencies and networks the last few days in remembering the terrible lost of lives and properties in Aceh (and throughout Asia) 5 years ago today. The tsunami brought the worst onto the people living or holidaying in the coastal areas which were in the path of the "big waves". On the bright-side many a kind souls' light shone brightly through their sacrificial and liberal giving.
Devoid of greenery.
In remembering, each victim has a solid platform - for closure and moving on. In closure, there is renew HOPE and impetus to take step forward. Yes hope springs eternal. It may be the most important element in cresting the trough of human tragedies. The human spirit can be very resilient. The lower it goes the higher it will summit. Yes, again and again around the world, we have witnessed that victims may triumph with just a ray of hope. The transformation is complete when the victim becomes a victor.

With a tent for her home, this spirited survivor with a loan from a micro-credit aid agency made a living by preparing fresh oysters meat (in the red scoop) for sale. Don't pity me (but
help me) as I have the will to live and to overcome what come may.
The challenge is to make tangible this ray of hope. It can be a box of noodles, a bottle of water, clothes, medical treatment, a tent, a boat, a small loan to restart their livelihood etc. As for reconstruction of homes and infrastructure the big agencies will be the main players as they can consolidate all the givings of ordinary folks, to make big projects possible.

My visit to Aceh was in April 2006, fifteen months after the disaster. The landscape still looked very much a pancake. Many were still living in United Nations and Red Cross tents while waiting for the reconstruction. About 6,000 - 7,000 houses were built compared to a need of 60,000 houses. Bricks, timber and workers were hard to come by and expensive. Trucks were sent to other parts of Sumatera to source them.
Simple and brand new houses in the wilderness.
Five years on and following the news, I would reckon that most of the visible needs especially in urban areas were somewhat met in some form and degree in quantity and quality. The concern is still with those in the rural and remote areas. At times these areas are a blind spot and folks were left to fend for themselves.

But still the reconstruction of Aceh by the the local and international community may be considered a success in terms co-operative efforts. But there were kinks too. Tents to be used for cold climes were sent to tropical Aceh! Some were resold. Culturally clashes and the need to massage big egos were well documented. Corruption, price gouging etc are normal challenges the aid agencies have to navigate.

This is also the beginning of my involvement in humanitarian resource raising that further led to more in the next few years - Yogyakarta earthquake in 2006 and recently in Padang. I have found out like many before me had, when we feed these rays of hope to the human spirit though broken it will somehow recover its will to live and to overcome. All it takes are for some kindness and compassion. And again standing on the shoulders of giant in this arena - I found out like them, it is more blessed to give.

~~~~~Dedicated to the ordinary folks that made the difference through their giving, those on the ground that made it possible and the agencies through brilliant leadership harnessed the ordinary and put through synergistic methods for extraordinary live-changing results.~~~~~

P/S - Wishing all a belated Blessed Christmas and a kinder and more compassionate 2010.


Life for Beginners said...

Here's to a kinder and more compassionate 2010 all round the world.

Selba said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family :)