Watching the children of Blang Mee dance made Grace Wiebe realize that recovery from the devastating tsunami of 2004 is truly taking hold in the region of Aceh on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
“That whole region was a place of horror for the children. Many of them became orphans after the tsunami,” says Wiebe, Senior Relief Project Manager for CRWRC.
Joy on the faces of the dancing children told her that these youngsters were finally beginning to move on from the devastation of the tsunami that killed nearly 130,000 people in Aceh alone and displaced another half million. “It was a very positive and healing event to see those girls doing a traditional folk dance,” she says.
Along with several others from the CRWRC and representatives of other relief agencies and groups, Wiebe travelled to Indonesia in February to join the people of Blang Mee – a region of about six villages -- in marking the success of CRWRC’s work in the community. They toured new homes and businesses, visited flourishing farm fields, and took part in various events.
They also traveled to Aceh to review the work that CRWRC has done in that area following the tsunami. The agency has spent more than $5 million in emergency response, relief, and reconstruction work in Aceh. Besides working in Blang Mee, the agency has also helped bring relief and reconstruction to villages in and around the nearby city of Banda Aceh.
Those who went on the trip included CRWRC relief leaders, managers and consultants. Among them were Jacob Kramer, Susan Van Lopik, Tom Post, Nick Armstrong, Pete and Ila Diepersloot, Lee and Sue Mys, and Brenda Melles.
Working in conjunction with various partner agencies and groups, many from Indonesia, CRWRC’s staff of 43 have over the past three years provided children with school supplies and uniforms, cleared land, planted a range of crops, built new fishing boats, and restored businesses for those who lost their jobs in the disaster. In the process, CRWRC has helped to build 836 permanent homes, with 164 on the way.
“It’s been a very holistic effort,” says Wiebe. “We wrapped our arms around the community and tried to help restore them to wholeness.”
A good portion of CRWRC’s work, which will run for at least another year, has been done with the help of Muslim workers. The region itself is primarily Muslim. Along these lines, CRWRC is participating in a study that is looking at the impact Christian organizations such as CRWRC have had on relations with the Muslim population.
The reason for the study, says Wiebe, is to determine what lessons were learned and to be better prepared to respond in the future to disasters in areas where many of the people are Muslims or members of another faith. The report should be out in June.
“We have stayed with the community. We have been with them through everything,” says Wiebe.
CRWRC is also in the process of wrapping up the post-tsunami work that it did in Sri Lanka, where it also provided relief and reconstructions resources as well as focused on helping children near the community of Panadura get back to school.
by Chris Meehan/CRC Communications