by Saiful Mahdi
8:30am. Reconvene at People Crisis
Center. Today we will have a big delivery of supplies. My old friend
since middle school, Eko Fariadianto, 37, an Acehnese student studying
in Germany, was so excited to come along with one of PCC’s distribution
pick-up trucks. Indeed, there is no greater encouragement in this very
difficult time for us than looking at the shining eyes and slight smiles
of people we are helping. But I could not join the supply of deliveries
today as I had to meet my dean and others at the university. Eko came
later at around 10:30pm when I’d already left for Darussalam. But I got
these pictures from his camera (pictured by Eko and other volunteers)
9:15am. I met some of my colleagues at College of Mathematics and
Natural Sciences, where I have been teaching since 1993. Some with grim
stories like I have been hearing every day--losing loved ones, houses,
and not being able to find the dead bodies of their loved ones. No
matter how traumatic things are in Banda Aceh, being there with many who
share the same fate, I think, should ease one faster then being alone.
Whenever you think about your missing loved ones, you think that you are
not alone and not the only family with grievances in Banda Aceh. I met
one administration staff member who lost his two kids, and his house and
has to struggle caring for his wife who gulped too much dangerous
My Dean, a Ph.D. from Japan is an amazing man. Frustrated like others
about our university’s slow response, he has committed himself to
helping with daily relief work at shelters. He is in his office from 8am
to 2pm as official office hours in Aceh, helping staff, lecturers and
students and reporting back to our college. After that he is also
working as much as possible at shelters until late at night. He also
sent his family away to Surabaya in East Java so he can work most of his
hours for society without worrying his own family.
11:40am. I was still in Darussalam meeting personally with my dean. We
discussed what roles we can play as members of a university community.
To my surprise, he was not optimistic in expecting a leading role from
the university. The long red tape and a big-slow system make the
university not very responsive to the destruction and calamity of the
tsunami. What a pity!
Eko, my other boy-scout teammate when we were in middle school,
was ready to depart with aid supplies from the PCC office and
warehouse. He came back from Germany to directly buy and
distribute supplies with donated money from communities in
The small pick-up trucks deliver supplies to IDPs staying at
their relatives around Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar. Many of these
IDPs did not get support as they did not stay in official
shelters. They chose to stay away from crowded shelters so they
can better protect their small children, women, and elderly.
Seeing smiling faces of IDPs and other victims of the tsunami,
brings joy to your own hearts. Eko is directly giving supplies
we bought to one of the affected families.
We based our distribution on the number of households, household
members, ages, and sex. Females receive women’s special needs,
children get milk, children’s clothes, and school supplies when
available, for example. Some of the supplies were bought by a
fund raised in a community in Munich, Germany where Eko is
Around 2pm. I got back to PCC with a friend from my college. The post
was busy as usual. Some people were at the bulletin board, reading and
still hoping to find loved ones.
Notes from surviving family members searching for love ones. We
are keeping a database of missing and found love ones. We also
provide PCC visitors with information of hospitalized victims in
Medan that we receive from our networks.
A mother with two kids showing a photograph of her other missing
child. Our volunteer is placing a Vitamin A bracelet on one of
the girls after she was administered Vitamin A.
When I reached PCC, I was told that my village folks were waiting for me
at their shelter for our first scheduled village meeting after tsunami.
They sent somebody to remind me about the meeting. I know I was late,
but I did not forget about the meeting. There are just too many things
to do and too many people to serve when you are around the PCC site. So,
off I went to Gedung Sosial, about half mile from the PCC site to join
the meeting that I’d proposed earlier when I first met my village folks.
Abubakar Ishak, 40, was officially elected our new village
People attending the meeting asked to say something. I said I basically
want our village to keep united and be strong together. Especially, I
mentioned our obligation to do something about the corpses in our
village. Some of the meeting conclusions are:
- Pak Abu is democratically elected
as our interim new village head;
- Everybody wants to go back to Blang Arafah, our destroyed
neighborhood in Punge Jurong V.
- Next steps and agreements:
- Continue village member registration
- Property registration, i.e. house and land
- No division into smaller neighborhoods is needed in terms of
fighting for our rights after tsunami
- We need to seek funding to restart our trade activities as a
majority of our village members are merchants at Banda Aceh’s
- If relocated, we want to be relocated close to the market as our
way to make a living.
- Single men and women are encouraged to get married among our own
villagers (a big laughter follows….)
- There is a three month old baby in our village custody after
being left behind by its parents (sex was not mentioned to test
anybody claiming to be its parent). Until somebody was determined to
be the real parent, the baby will be in village custody
- There is information about some of our villagers being in Medan
that needs to be further clarified
- All agree to work together on doing our part in taking care of
the corpses in our village. We will work together starting tomorrow
at 9am. Villagers will help clean up the rubble, but we will need an
evacuation team to remove the corpses. (I was asked to find an
evacuation team and will support supplies for the work)
- We agreed to start our “gotong royong” that is, working together,
from our mosque and move around our village from there
If temporary shelters are to be provided, we want them right on
the land of our destroyed village.
After the meeting, I went directly to the Indonesian Red Cross
central command post to ask for an evacuation team to come to our
village tomorrow. I assured them that the villagers will be there to
work together with them. Our assured participation might have helped
the red cross team to agree to help us tomorrow. The team leader
promised to call later that night.
7:20pm. I went back to PCC command post.
I saw some of our volunteers taking a break together, chatting
Around 9:30pm. I received a telephone call from the Indonesian Red Cross
logistics chief informing me that one evacuation team would be assigned
to our village tomorrow and that he wanted one of us to come to their
post in the morning to show the way to our village. A big relief for me
as I would fulfill my promise to my villagers. Tomorrow will be a busy