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A Year Later, UMCOR in Indonesia

A year after the earthquake and the resulting tsunami washed ashore in Banda Aceh, UMCOR Indonesia, along with hundreds of other Non-Governmental Organizations, is hard at work restoring lives and repairing the damage caused by this disaster.

At the end of October 2005 UMCOR Indonesia completed 10 demonstration houses in four villages in Bireuen District of Aceh Province to help the communities better understand the kind of permanent housing UMCOR Indonesia would provide. In a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 29, these homes were given to families that were left most vulnerable by the tsunami. Asiah Ben is moving into one of these homes with her three children. She is the poorest woman in her village and therefore received the first house. She is very happy to have a place to call home.

UMCOR Indonesia is now constructing more than 420 new homes in the villages of Kuala Raja, Cot Batee, Matang Teungoh, Pineung Siri Bee, and Tanjong Baro to be completed this year in addition to reconstructing 89 damaged homes. The new homes in Cot Batee will go to 65 landless families from Kuala Raja. UMCOR has worked with these families, villagers in Cot Batee, and the local government to find a long-term housing solution for those who were left in a vulnerable situation without land to build upon following the tsunami. The villagers are pleased with the quality houses being built by UMCOR Indonesia, and future recipients look forward to moving out of the temporary barracks-style shelters and into their new homes.

Community Approach

Asiah Ben and two of her children at her new UMCOR home with UMCOR Program Officer Katie Henneman

Asiah Ben and two of her children at her new UMCOR home with UMCOR Program Officer Katie Henneman. Credit: UMCOR

UMCOR sees survivors as project partners, not passive aid recipients. Community members participate in meetings with UMCOR staff to learn about the projects underway and how communities can participate and benefit. In this way, communities become empowered to contribute to their own future. UMCOR is working with long-term goals in mind which means initial progress may seem slow, but the results will be lasting and benefit entire communities.

In all the villages, local people, often including the beneficiaries who will receive the completed homes, are hired to work on the construction. This provides income opportunities in the village. Additionally, UMCOR Indonesia is working with community committees in each village to develop income generation projects that will benefit the community as a whole, such as fishing ponds or tailoring work, and what degree of training would be needed to ensure success. Public infrastructure projects will also be designated by the community committees to address important community needs, such as improved access to safe water or better roads.

Challenges

Working in post-tsunami Indonesia presents some unique challenges. UMCOR Indonesia is working creatively to overcome them.

  • The hundreds of outside organizations seeking to help in the recovery process have flooded government offices. UMCOR personnel are working within the government's guidelines to seek appropriate permits in the most time-effective manner. Thus far, UMCOR Indonesia has received top NGO ratings by the government, allowing UMCOR Indonesia to continue in planned work.
  • Massive construction efforts are placing a strain on resources for building materials, such as lumber. UMCOR Indonesia's home design uses less lumber so construction is cost-effective and environmentally responsible.
  • Banda Aceh, the area of Indonesia hardest-hit by the tsunami, has been a place of ongoing conflict for over 30 years. Since the tsunami, the peace process has been more ardently pursued, and an important milestone was reached with the August 2005 peace agreement. UMCOR supports peace in Aceh, and always seeks to remain neutral in conflict and to keep its workers safe.
  • In light of these challenges, UMCOR Indonesia has accomplished considerable work in the last 12 months: affected areas were surveyed to find which communities have the least access to social services, staff was hired, permits granted, office space procured, construction began, and some of the tsunami's most vulnerable survivors were able to return to well-built permanent homes. The new year is off to a productive start with significant construction of homes underway, community committees engaged in responding to the income and public infrastructure needs of their villages, and UMCOR looking into additional areas and sectors in Indonesia in need.

    Tsunami Recovery in Other Areas

    AOne of the demonstrations houses constructed by UMCOR Indonesia.

    One of the demonstrations houses constructed by UMCOR Indonesia. Credit: UMCOR

    UMCOR is also working to bring healing and relief in other tsunami-affected nations. Below are a few highlights of UMCOR's work in other countries:

    Sri Lanka: UMCOR Sri Lanka is engaged in bringing recovery in three locations. Workers are reaching out in conjunction with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka (MCSL) to help not only those affected by the tsunami, but also those displaced by the country's ongoing civil war.

    India: The tsunami ruined livelihoods, poisoned wells, and damaged crops in Chennai and Andaman Island. The Methodist Church there is assisting their communities through reconstruction, income generation projects, education, and other community services. UMCOR is helping them meet their outreach goals through grants.

    Thailand: UMCOR assisting partner organizations to rebuild schools and childcare centers for Burmese refugees living in tsunami-affected Thailand.

    Somalia: The tsunami affected communities are as far away as Somalia where it washed away homes, fishing boats, and equipment from the coast. UMCOR provided emergency supplies as well as equipment through local partner organizations to help fisher folk return to work.