Four years ago, as semi-conscious Ihya Muhammad Isnaeil swam through a moving mountain of water to a nearby rooftop, he thought he was still holding his infant son in his arms and the hand of his pregnant wife, Nova, in his own. As Isnaeil clung to the crumbling roof tiles during the second and third tsunami waves, he reached desperately for the hands of a screaming neighbor and his son. Only then did he realize that his own family had already been swept out to sea. Isnaeil quietly shakes his head as he reflects.
Last Saturday, Isnaeil remembered his loss and began to celebrate with his whole community as he prepares to move into a sturdy new home built in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, by CRWRC. Isnaeil is one of thousands of survivors who have benefited since December 26, 2004, from $18 million in donated and government funds received by CRWRC for tsunami response.
Saturday’s event was held at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh with presentations from local and federal representatives. Those attending the celebration received additional awards and prizes that were part of a week-long series of events including a contest for “best decorated home,” traditional dances, and other activities.
“Through CRWRC’s exemplary programming, the people of Aceh have risen from their sorrow,” said Irwandi Yusuf, Aceh’s governor. “CRWRC’s positive approach motivates people and communities to be actively involved in all stages of recovery.” The governor added that the whole Acehanese system would “use CRWRC’s participatory approach to community-building as a model to expand on in the future.”
Since December 2004, CRWRC has provided tsunami survivors in Aceh with:
- Temporary shelter for 642 households
- Emergency kits for 5,300 people
- Medical camps to treat 6,500 people
- Income assistance to 17,500 people
- Artesian wells in 15 villages
- Electrical power to 4,400 people in 18 villages
- School access for 2,300 children
- Textbooks and typewriters to schools in four villages
- 1,139 earthquake-resistant permanent homes
David Fournier, the First Secretary of Development at the Canadian Embassy in Jakarta, said in an email on Monday (6/22/09) that CRWRC and its collaborators “have been a valued partner among the housing partners of the Canadian International Development Agency (in Indonesia). I’ve been impressed with the speed and efficiency with which (permanent) houses were constructed and with the strong community involvement” that the programs engendered. In them the lives of thousands of survivors like Ihya Muhammad Isnaeil have been changed.
Isnaeil will be one of the final recipients of a house through CRWRC’s tsunami recovery program. While the widower had been able to save to purchase a small piece of land in Aceh, until January of this year he held little hope for saving enough money to build a new home. Then six months ago, with the encouragement of a village leader who knew CRWRC’s work in Aceh, Isnaeil applied and qualified for assistance based on his low-paying civil service job. The transformation Isnaeil has experienced through CRWRC will last a lifetime.
CRWRC Director Ida Mutoigo captures the spirit of Isnaeil and his neighbors this way: “The bright sun beams on new homes and green shrubs, and rice fields are bursting with healthy crops, and the sparkling water teems with fish. Seeing newly married and expectant couples and hearing the laughter of young children playing testifies to a power of life that is greater than death. God’s presence is profoundly evident in the greatest tragedy – His grace and love have overpowered the tsunami.”
Grace Wiebe, International Disaster Response tsunami project manager for CRWRC, is available for interviews by the media by calling 1-800-730-3490. For further information, call Beth DeGraff, media contact at 1-800-55-CRWRC or cell, 616-648-7821.