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02/11/05 12:00AM
Total Collected:
US$ 69,122.10

Journal from the Ground
by Lisa Loomis and Sorayya Khan



Monday, May 7, 2007

¬[05/06/07] [05/08/07]®

The day began with several hours of computer work and email attempts at the Aceh Institute. We chatted with a very interesting man who was researching and comparing the work of two different NGOs, specifically with regard to how they rebuilt neighborhoods for people. His name is Dr. Riwanto Tirtusudarmo from Jakarta.

We had some success and some failure with the internet and emailing. After a few attempts we were able to send the first journal entry although I was unable to send any pictures to my newspaper for publication this week. (I did manage that task at 4AM on Tuesday using the computer of the Oasis Hotel marketing manager, a Mr. Imam Gunadi Darmedi.)

We abandoned our computing and went to lunch with Famelia and Jol at a restaurant featuring Indonesian fare. There were piped in bird and waterfall noises playing from an illuminated picture on the wall and we had a great meal of fried rice, meat and vegetables. During lunch we talked to Famelia and Jol about their individual experiences during the tsunami. We were feeling like we might be invading their privacy by asking them so many questions. They said it was okay and Famelia went on to say that one thing she (and other people) learned through the tsunami is that life can be very random and finite and can end in any minute.

“I know people who went back for their mobile phones or their jewelry and they died. It makes us realize that we could die in five minutes or in a day and that we must prepare or live our lives as if we are ready,” Famelia told us.

We returned to the hotel for a brief rest before heading to Saiful’s village of Punge Jurong. On the way back to drop Famelia off at Aceh Institute she pointed out a government water tower that had not been built properly and had had to be demolished for a cost of three billion IR. This giant concrete wheel shaped remnant lies near the park.

PIC Punge Jurong

In Punge Jurong we met the village subhead Abu Bakar, the village elder. We met him in the Ten Houses area, which is the name the community has given the ARF houses. He and the rest of the construction managers for the Aceh Relief houses were still on the job, using one of the ten houses as an office and a base. He told us that there is electricity in the houses since last week and said that water would be connected at the beginning of August.

He said they were also drilling a well for non-potable water uses. Through our interpreter Syahrul we learned that the houses are expected to be done in September or August and that they have some upgraded features such as tile floors and fencing.

The houses cost about $6000 or IR54,000,000 to build and are six by six meters, plus a bit. They have a main room, two other rooms plus a kitchen and bath. Blue doors were leaned, ten of them, against a wall in the house we were in. They will divide the bathrooms and kitchens in the Aceh Relief Houses. We learned that there are five village subheads, each responsible for a district or environment of this village.

Six thousand people lived there prior to the tsunami. Abu Bakar’s district/environment had 2000 people and now has 700. It used to be the most populous in the village. Now the entire village consists of 2300 tsunami survivors.

Many residents continue to live in barracks while waiting for housing. The ARF housing is for non-landowners, only renters. Criteria are being developed for how to allocate access to housing. Faisal (government appointed village head who oversees more than one village) works with various NGOs and government and village subheads to determine how housing should be allocated.

They need 1000 houses and so far have 550 built by Indonesian Red Cross (BM), 248 by Habitat UN, and 226 by BRR (Indonesian Reconstruction Rehabilitation). If all the homes are built, then all housing needs covered, Bakar told us through our translator.

At the same time they’ve been building houses, the state is rebuilding infrastructure including roads, water and electricity damaged or destroyed during the tsunami.

We asked who created the village plan and layout for housing and learned that planners came from BMI and worked with a team including Faisal and Abu Bakar and other village heads. They surveyed housing foundation ruins and relied on older village members with the most complete knowledge and the best memories to determine where houses would be located.

Faisal, Abu Bakar and their collaborators looked at 5 models of housing offered by Habitat UN, letting the community select the architectural style/model of housing that they wanted. We asked how the architecture and quality of the homes compare from organization to organization. Faisal told us that there were differences between the various types of NGO houses and said that some organizations had as much as IR 100 million per house while the ARF houses were being built for IR 54 million.

The replacement houses generally do not compare in size to the larger houses destroyed by the tsunami.

Faisal said that he and his team had maximized their budgets by working with contractors and saving money where they could. He noted that the houses will all be completed uniformly until keys turned over to new owners. Then residents are free to make whatever changes they desire.

We wondered if there was tension over who gets what house. We were told that the village chiefs made lists of who needed houses and before construction began, people had to sign agreement to accept whatever house became available when their name came up without complaint. This seems to have worked.

UN habitat houses are already completed in region/environment one of the village.

Mr. Faisal explains the process of allocating housing.

In response to our question, “Is this level of cooperation in community typical of country or unique to village?”, we were told ‘Before tsunami it wasn’t like this. After it as needs increased people had to cooperate and recognized that they need to hear each others’ needs and concerns.”

Syahrul translated “If the government had taken the policy that all should be equal (in terms of distribution of aid), they wouldn’t have needed to come together.”

Planning goes up to sub-district level, one level up from Faisal whom we learned is a civil servant, appointed by the government. In smaller, rural areas, the head of village elected by community with rural areas being defined (at the moment) as less than 3000. In towns the leaders are almost like administrators and they are appointment by the government. In Geuchik’s or small village, leaders are elected.

Touring the ten ARF houses we saw workers toiling on a variety of tasks such as soffit work, roof sheathing, painting etc. Many workers come outside Aceh, like those from Java we photographed who had been there 2 weeks and liked Aceh they said. Some of the workers are staying in the partially done houses, others are staying in wooden shelters.

Some pre-tsunami houses have been rebuilt at their former scale.

Abu Bakar told us that during the tsunami, water came from three directions. The land is 1.5 kilometers from the ocean. Water came over the tops of existing two storied houses and there are some previously existing houses which have been rebuilt and are palatial compared to 36 m replacements.

As we walked to see the community center, we were passed by a man with a trike which was funded by an ARF micro-loan. We also passed a kiosk/store gathering center where sundries and snacks were for sale and where people were gathered watching a television.

Abu Bakar took us to Saiful’s house/plot where his mother’s relatives live in a small two story section. They came to the door. There is a TV. We were told that Saiful’s mother is too afraid to move back yet and also learned that some of Saiful’s family were saved because they were able to run to the house across the street with a sturdy upper level.

Abu Bakar told us that many people took refuge in the Mosque which was damaged. It ended up with many bodies in it and help was needed to move those bodies. It was prayer time as we walked up to the Mosque and the Azan could be heard through out the village. People were approaching on foot, by scooter and other means to pray.

The community center, built by ARF, APAS and the American Red Cross.


We saw the community center built by ARF, APAS and American Red Cross and Abu Bakar said that IR 6 million was donated to rebuild the water supply to the Mosque. He pointed out a building for women where women cook and gather. It is better than was they had before Abu Bakar said. While we were standing there a thin man, smoking a cigarette, approached just listening to the conversation. Bakar gestured to him, saying, “he lost 11 family members and is now alone. I lost 12.”

It was getting dark as we said our good-byes. On the way back to the hotel Syahrul told us of losing his father and youngest brother. He is the eldest of four brothers. His mother and father and youngest brother were at the market and his mother can’t swim. And when the water came she hung on to a tree that lifted her up until she came to a bridge or part of its railing and she hung on, lifted her head up to get air and then let the water rush over her. She did that several times until she was helped onto the surface of the bridge and taken to the hospital. Syahrul went to the Great Mosque, met his boss there who told him he’d seen his mother at the hospital. Went there and found his mom and two brothers, same afternoon. Father and youngest brother, 16, were still missing. Syahrul has his mom living in father’s extra house in village. He said it’s not great, but better than living in barrack where he doesn’t want to traumatize mother further.

¬[05/06/07] [05/08/07]®