Aceh, Indonesia, five years later

By Liz O'Neill

When the tsunami struck on December 26, 2004, Aceh, Indonesia was hit first and hit hardest. Catholic Relief Services was on the ground quickly, distributing desperately needed items such as food, tents and essential hygiene kits to nearly 250,000 people. Soon, we moved into the transitional phase, constructing more than 2,000 temporary shelters to house families as they awaited completion of permanent homes. During the next five years, thanks to the massive outpouring of support from our donors and partners, we were able to build nearly 4,000 permanent earthquake-resistant homes, and the infrastructure needed to support new communities-new roads, new water and sanitation systems, health clinics, a hospital, schools and community centers.

It was a challenging and remarkable undertaking, given the massive scale of the projects and the obstacles overcome along the way. Throughout the process, we were committed to the quality and durability of all the construction projects. We also made certain the Achenese had a say in the efforts to improve their quality of life. Those improvements included access to community services, greater opportunities for their children, and all that comes with the promise of a new beginning.

Liz O'Neill is CRS' communications officer for Europe, the Middle East and Asia. She is based at the agency's headquarters in Baltimore.