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Advocacy, Cooperation Leads to Homes for the Tsunami’s Most Vulnerable Survivors

NEW YORK, Nov. 7, 2006-The Kuala Barracks in Bireuen District of Aceh Province are being dismantled, thanks in large part to the United Methodist Committee on Relief's advocacy efforts. UMCOR worked with the local government to secure land and build homes for 65 families who became homeless when houses they were renting were swept away by the tsunami. This temporary shelter was constructed after the tsunami to house people left homeless by this disaster. Approximately 108 families lived in the crowded and dilapidated Kuala Barracks for nearly two years. For its former residents and the surrounding community, the dismantling of these barracks represents a giant step forward in recovery.

Families that owned land were able to leave the barracks and be resettled much faster than those

who were renting their homes prior to the tsunami. Landowners were given priority in the reconstruction process because they had a plot of land on which a home could be rebuilt. By contrast, landless families living in the barracks were left in a kind of reconstruction no man's land. Unable to claim a piece of property as their own, they were stranded in the temporary shelter awaiting a solution to their predicament.

Coordination Leads to a Solution

UMCOR worked closely with the 65 landless families living in the Kuala Barracks to ensure they were not left out of the rebuilding process. UMCOR approached the local government in Bireuen and encouraged them to seek funding from the Indonesian Rehabilitation Reconstruction Agency (BRR) to purchase land in the nearby village of Cot Batee for the families. Then UMCOR, along with the local village leaders in Cot Batee found people willing to sell their land to the government for the landless families.

Once the rights to the land were secure, UMCOR asked the community members to help clear their new land and hired machinery to do the heavy work. A new road and drainage channel constructed by UMCOR made it possible for contractors to move in and build 65 houses with a small living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. Each house has water and is linked to the local electrical network. The houses are painted bright green, pink and orange, cheerfully standing out from the lush green tropical background of palm trees and rice paddies.

Making New Houses into Homes

The families have now all moved into the new houses. Now they are going about the business of making theses house in to homes-planting flowers and plants in their front yards and stringing up clothes lines, setting up small outside businesses, where neighbors like to visit, and hanging up what pictures survived the tsunami.

UMCOR established its Indonesia office in 2005 to assist in tsunami recovery. UMCOR was among the first organizations to work in the Bireuen District of Aceh Province.