“Before the tsunami . . . I was a fisherman . . . I had a house . . . I had a son who spoke English . . . I had five grandchildren.”
“Before the tsunami” is a phrase often on the lips of survivors. There were so many things before the tsunami where there are now only empty spaces—open fields speckled with house foundations wiped clean.
Two UMCOR Indonesia staff members drove me to see the damage in Banda Aceh. Time has done little to heal the gaping wounds the sea cut across this city and throughout the province. As we near the sea Ambiya, UMCOR’s procurement officer in Banda Aceh, points to the left side of the road where I see an open field. “That was my mother’s village,” he says. We drive further and he points to the right, the land is filled with stagnant water and rubble. The shell of one large concrete house stands. “That was my father’s village.” Then he points to a driveway leading to an empty lot. “That was my house.”
Everyone who lives here has a story to tell—a story of survival and loss, of bravery and brokenness. They are sacred tales that represent the rending of many lives in two: life before the tsunami, and life after.
A Better Future
UMCOR is working with survivors to make their lives after the tsunami better. In Banda Aceh UMCOR is reaching out to survivors still living in barracks-style temporary shelters because they have no where else to go. UMCOR is working with 100 families living in two of these temporary living centers, helping them make plans for a future. Most people already know what they need to do; they need income and a place to live. Some have specific ideas of how they want to go about this. They just need a hand up to make these plans a reality.
UMCOR is helping people like Rima who mistook the sound of the tsunami approaching her village for thunder and its dark appearance rising above the trees for a storm cloud. When she and her husband realized what they were seeing was nothing as ordinary as a quick-moving storm, they grabbed their two small children and ran. They didn’t get far before the tsunami caught up with them. The family was separated in the roiling waves. Four days later Rima’s relatives found her and brought her to their home where she met up with her husband and oldest child. Their youngest child was never found.
Rima and her family now live in a temporary living center just outside of Banda Aceh. Their house was completely destroyed and the little work Rima’s husband can find barely covers their living expenses. They want to move out of the barracks, and UMCOR is helping them by providing livelihood training and assistance that will lead to more income for the family. UMCOR is also working to find permanent housing solutions for these displaced families.
The staff at the Banda Aceh office, like UMCOR’s offices throughout Indonesia, is made up mostly of fellow Indonesians. Many of them experienced personal loss when the tsunami roared ashore. They have a personal commitment to helping survivors to not only have what they need for today, but to build a new future. “A new life started after the tsunami,” said one survivor. UMCOR is working to make it the best one possible.
UMCOR is working on assisting displaced people in Indonesia and other places in South Asia to rebuild their lives and return to farming, fishing, or other work. United Methodists can get involved in ministries like these through giving to UMCOR Advance #982450, International Disaster Response. United Methodist Committee on Relief is a 501(c)(3) charity and all contributions are fully tax deductible. Checks may be mailed to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10187-9068. Donors using a credit card may call toll free 800-554-8583.