People of New Orleans Channels Tsunami Fund Through
December 6, 2005
It is the fruit of networking. Realizing that small
initiatives need to be strategic and focused, ARF utilizes a vast
network in and outside Aceh to fundraise and deliver its programs.
Reading Society Foundation (www.acehkids.org)
and 1001-Books (www.1001buku.org)
are among the two very active partners of ARF in Indonesia.
On the other corner of the world, well, at least the other
corner of the US, Asian Pacific American Society (APAS -
of New Orleans, with the help of United Way and other agencies
have raised over $440,000 tsunami donation in New Orleans
greater area by April 2005. APAS is a unique and strong
community organization. It is a real melting pot of communities
from Asia and the Pacific regions--some already naturalized,
some others are students or professionals with temporary
residency status—in a famous city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
APAS represented communities of 16 countries,
alphabetically: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan,
Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Srilanka,
Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. In its statement of purpose, it states:
“APAS seeks to bring out the maximum potential of all people in the
Asian American community. Ultimately, APAS hopes to build a better world
for all races.”
It’s unity in diversity is well pictured by its board of officers: The
chair is Rajender K. Pannu, a successful business women from
Malaysia-India with vice chairs from The Philippines and Taiwan, a
secretary from Laos and a treasurer from Indonesia. The treasurer, Bobby
Aboesono, was trying to help find organization working in Aceh so APAS
can collaborate with.
When Bobby contacted our friends from 1001-Books, who are working
closely with us, they mentioned ARF as one of the potential candidates
for funding provision. Afterwards, Bobby and Raj from APAS contacted ARF
in Ithaca. Some phone calls and email exchanges, including a
teleconference, preceded a visit of APAS chairwoman to Aceh 10-11 June
2005. (see picture). Mrs. Raj Pannu visited the village ARF adopted for
its programs, saw some on-going projects, met with the villagers and
discussed what they need directly on spot. A two days visit strengthened
both organizations commitment to work together to help the survivors in
Aceh (The APAS chairwoman then visited Thailand and Sri Lanka as well to
meet with local organizations in the countries).
Convinced with the programs and projects we are and will be working in
Aceh, APAS invited ARF, and several other organizations from tsunami
affected countries, to submit a grant proposal. Dr. Mazalan Kamis, ARF’s
President, had himself to work late nights to prepare a proposal from
ARF to APAS and met the deadline of June 30, 2005. APAS said that they
will have a board meeting after 4 July to decide whether they were to
support ARF programs or not.
In August, we heard from APAS that they might support parts of our
proposal. It was a great news echoed to the villagers in Punge Jurong.
The villagers were so happy to know that they might then started to
think about restarting of the small businesses, something they could not
do without seed money APAS was willing to support.
Unfortunately, as we all know, Katrina hurricane struck New Orleans in
October. Raj and Bobby themselves were affected and had to flee New
Orleans. Raj lost four out of six outlet store she and her family has.
Bobby lost his job and now works with new company in Florida.
Some villagers of Punge Jurong followed about Katrina and asked about
Raj wellbeing. They fully understood that the funding APAS had promised
might not come soon or even at all. They told Saiful that above all,
they wished Raj and people of New Orleans safe first. ARF then decided
to go ahead with whatever funding it had to start the revolving credit
programs so the villagers can (re)start their livelihood.
Amazingly, however, APAS and people of New Orleans, insisted that
tsunami donations should go to what it was initially set for: to help
tsunami victims. They would not use the funding for Katrina relief
efforts. APAS invited Mazalan and Saiful to come to New Orleans on Dec
3-5, 2005. In front of Indonesia and other communities, with almost all
APAS officers present Raj announced that APAS will support ARF works
with up to $118,000. The first check of $40,000 was handed directly to
ARF by Raj (see picture). The remaining commitment will be disbursed
based of progress and report ARF will provide in the future.
10 June: Villagers met Mrs Raj Pannu APAS’ President of New
Orleans, Lousiana in Punge Jurong, Banda Aceh
Dec 4, 2005: One of affected neighborhood in New Orleans still
to recover from Katrina destruction.
Dec 4, 2005: Mrs. Raj Pannu, Chair of APAS and Dr. Mazalan Kamis,
President of ARF in front of a school bus made shelter. The
school bus was used by cleaning-up and construction workers in
New Orleans. Mrs. Pannu generously let these workers used her
store parking lot for them to camp out.
Dec 4, 2005: New Orleans downtown is getting back! The famous
French Corner is ready for its nights life again.
Dec 4, 2005: Mrs. Raj Pannu, witnessed by APAS board officers
handed a check of $40,000 to Dr. Kamis and Saiful, in New