When a massive earthquake occurred off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia on December 26, 2004, the tsunami that followed wrought destruction on a dozen countries and left thousands dead and millions devastated. Indonesia was the country most affected by the tsunami. The province of Aceh took the brunt of the disaster, killing close to 200,000 people. Besides the loss of life, the tsunami displaced more than half a million people, destroying homes, businesses, and places of work. Twenty hours after the tsunami, World Renew Country Team Leader Nick Armstrong arrived in Aceh to assess the needs of the area. By January World Renew–working under the program name “GenAssist”–began providing relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction to communities living in both Aceh and Nias Island.

Emergency Response
In response to the immediate needs of survivors living in the Nias and Aceh districts, World Renew provided water and sanitation facilities, educational resources, medical aid, food, and shelter to 19,651 people. Educational resources consisted of uniforms, shoes, and school supplies. Medical aid included emergency clinics, medicine, first aid, and trauma counseling. Shelter was comprised of blankets, tents and clothes. Along with food-aid public kitchens and cooking supplies were provided. Besides these relief activities World Renew also supplied electricity, wells, and the perimeter fencing needed to protect 22 villages from wild boars.

Led by International Relief Managers Pete and Ila Diepersloot, the project was a success, running the entire calendar year and assisting 30 percent more people than originally planned. While responding to emergency aid, CRWRC partnered with a number of local agencies, including the Humanitarian Consortium, Geneva Global, AgriMent, Gemme 9, GKI, KYPA, Lesdamar, and WALHI.

Temporary Shelter
After the tsunami, the demand for permanent shelter was so great relief, that agencies and the Indonesian government would need four years to complete reconstruction. Though World Renew began constructing permanent homes six months after the tsunami, there were still thousands of families living in emergency tents.

In order to address this issue World Renew decided that as they built permanent homes, they would also work to improve families’ temporary housing situation. Since emergency tents are not made to last through more than a couple monsoons, CRWRC began constructing sturdier shelters, made of timber walls and metal roofs, and standing a solid 36 square meters. By September 2006, 642 temporary homes were built in 12 villages, housing more than 1,500 people.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) provided water and sanitation facilities. These included bathrooms, water wells, water pumps, and grey water drainage.

Permanent Housing
In July 2005 World Renew began working alongside local communities to build permanent homes. Lee and Sue Mys, International Relief Managers began the pilot project, a response co-funded by CIDA that built 525 houses. In September 2005, Mona Saroinsong joined the project team as program manager, helping to implement the growing number of new projects. To date, World Renew has built 1012 houses. Though World Renew directly implemented the construction of these houses, CIDA, Tearfund, and the Mennonite Central Committee co-funded the project with World Renew.

Community participation was integral to the project. World Renew was intentional in including both men and women in the planning process. As Umar Adam, a community member and coordinator, says, “I was always involved in the decision making. We… all had the opportunity to speak.”

Economic security was seriously compromised by the tsunami. Farmers lost their crops, those in the fishing industry lost their nets and boats, and businesses had their products destroyed. Once people’s health and safety were addressed, many were ready to reclaim their jobs and businesses. In response, World Renew implemented projects to help people re-establish their means of making an income. Funds came from World Renew, Tearfund, and CIDA.

By April 2009, World Renew will have helped a total of 37,600 people restore their livelihoods. Furthermore, 32 villages participated in improving their local economies. Throughout the entire process community members were involved in planning and organizing livelihood projects: in just the first year more than 1,300 meetings were conducted.

Projects included agriculture (rice, eggplant, peanuts, soya beans, fruit trees etc.), animal husbandry (ducks and goats), fishing (boats, nets and other equipment), and small business projects such as coffee production, baking, sewing, furniture building, and family run kiosks.

Hendri Saputra comes from Barah Blangme, the village in Aceh with the most orphans and widows. “It was so obvious at beginning of tsunami if one greeted someone else by saying ‘how are you?’ the reaction was anger.  Now if you greet someone, they smile.  The mean spirit is gone."