Indonesia: 150,000 children orphaned by tsunami: VP

Up to 150,000 children in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces are believed to have lost their parents in the devastating December earthquake and tsunamis, says Vice President Jusuf Kalla.
"Only God knows the exact number of the casualties, but the children who lost their parents could reach 150,000," he was quoted as saying Saturday (5/2/05) by state news agency Antara.

He said at least 20,000 of the children lost not only their parents but also all other family members and relatives.

Kalla was speaking before laying the cornerstone of an orphanage to be built in Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra. Covering 3 hectares, the orphanage will have about 50 buildings to accommodate approximately 1,000 children.

The construction of the orphanage is reportedly being funded by donations collected by private television network Trans TV, which is owned by banker Chairul Tanjung.

Social Affairs Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah meanwhile announced the government had temporarily imposed a ban on the adoption of orphans in Aceh and neighboring North Sumatra province by individuals or institutions.

"For the time being there will be no adoptions, because the Social Affairs Ministry and the Association of Acehnese in North Sumatra and a similar organization in Jakarta are able to take care of the orphans from the westernmost province," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.

Reports that child traffickers were stealing orphans and selling them abroad had earlier prompted the government to ban orphans in the two provinces from being adopted abroad or in other Indonesian provinces.

Chamsyah said many institutions and individuals had filed applications with the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) to adopt Acehenese orphans. He said MUI has anticipated likely high demand for orphans when the government lifts the adoption ban.

The December 26 disaster killed about 240,000 people in northern Sumatra, most of them in Aceh, while more than 410,000 people were left homeless.

The government has imposed a temporary ban on the adoption of orphans in Aceh and North Sumatra by individuals or institutions. The ban was prompted by reports that child traffickers were stealing orphans and selling them abroad.

Under Indonesian law, parents seeking to adopt must be of the same religion as the child. Analysts say the law is discriminatory and prevents many orphaned or unwanted babies from being adopted by loving, caring families, but instead places them at greater risk of being put up for illegal adoption by child traffickers.

Aceh's population is predominantly Muslim and the province is one of the most staunchly Islamic in Indonesia -- which means Christian groups are unlikely to be allowed to adopt any of the tsunami orphans.

International Foundation to Open Orphanages

New York-based Orphans International (OI) Worldwide is planning to open several orphanages in Sumatra to accommodate Aceh's displaced children, OI founder Jim Luce said in a statement Wednesday (3/2/05)

Following is the full text of the statement:

Sumatra Campus to be Built for Tsunami Orphans in Aceh

Four Rented Homes to Open Immediately

Feb. 3, 2005

New York -- Orphans International (OI) Worldwide founder Jim Luce announced today that OI America has received sufficient financial support -- including multiple community fundraisers, a $60,000 individual gift and several corporate and foundation grants -- to expand its operations and activities in Indonesia with the initiation of OI Sumatra, joining OI's existing projects in Bali and Sulawesi. Implementation of the project has begun already and the first two homes should open on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, epicenter of the tsunami disaster in Indonesia with an opening ceremony scheduled for the first week in March to be attended by OI personnel from around the world.

Meetings with government officials in New York , Jakarta , and Banda Aceh in the last month have kicked-off OI's effort to provide a secure home and support for children orphaned by the recent disaster. Coincidentally, Mr. Luce had met in New York with Indonesian Chief Social Welfare Minister Alwi Shihab to discuss a similar expansion in December, just prior to the tsunami. Mr. Shihab is now coordinating Indonesia's response to the disaster. OI's next International Council meeting will be held at the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations this week. OI Sumatra will work closely with local leadership in Banda Aceh.

OI staff have begun the process of reviewing applications of orphaned children in the province of Aceh, and 12 children have already been approved and are awaiting placement. OI has set the immediate objective of providing a home for at least 48 orphaned children in Aceh, with the goal of providing for 240 children in a dedicated community within one year. Additional children may be placed eventually in other OI projects in Indonesia, if details can be arranged. Director Ramdani Sirait reports OI is now screening applicants in Banda Aceh for seven houseparents; the applicants are primarily teachers and nurses. Plans are to hire over 100 local staff in the next year, thus boosting the local economy and providing a vehicle for self-help. OI Sumatra plans on renting a total of ten homes in the same neighborhood in the first six month, six homes for four children and a houseparent in each, and four homes for staff and guests; Sirait will share a home with the administrative office. Some of the homes will be furnished, and others will require furniture. Local carpenters will custom-build any needed furnishings. An additional ten homes are to be rented in the second six months, bringing OI rented housing stock to twenty and providing coverage for a total of 48 children by year-end. The first twelve homes are to be named after donors: Broadway House, Brooklyn House, Chicago House, Global Share House, Long Island House, Manhattan House, New Jersey House, Queens House, Roosevelt Island House, Rotary House, Silicon Valley House, and Spring Valley House.

The three staff homes will house two international team staff members in each, with a guest room in each as well. OI's international team of two American teachers, OI staff from Haiti and Peru and another teacher from the U.K. are expected to depart shortly for Sumatra. Luce will cut the red ribbon at the project opening ceremony in March.

OI Sumatra, an Indonesian organization headed by Sirait who is from North Sumatra, has an advantage over many other relief organizations: he is coordinating a relief effort that is paying Indonesian rates, not "relief rates." In a recent AP story entitled "Tsunami Bringing Long List of Profiteers" it is reported that Acehnese who speak English are in high demand by aid agencies and journalists who need translators. The going rate, AP states, is $50 a day -- the rough equivalent of a civil servant's monthly wage in pre-disaster Aceh. OI staff in Indonesia are paid between $60 and $400 per month; most speak English,

AP further reports that most aid agencies and media have settled in an upper-class Banda Aceh neighborhood untouched by the disaster, where current market rents rival those of New York City. The rent for a two-bedroom home that previously cost the equivalent of a few hundred dollars has soared as high as $5,000 a month. However, OI staff in Banda Aceh have already identified four three-bedroom homes in the same area of the devastated capital's suburbs that rent for Rp5 million a year per house (approx. US$500). These homes are in undisturbed condition, described as 'comfortable' and are the size of our planned sixty 'small homes' to house four children and a houseparent. Like OI homes in Bali and Sulawesi, they have electricity and cold water.

OI Sumatra has begun negotiations to purchase a 40-acre (16 ha) property outside Banda Aceh. Following OI Worldwide's general development plan, construction would begin as soon as possible on a campus composed of 60 small homes, schools, polyclinics for medical, psychological and dental health, sports parks and athletic facilities. Emergency housing will be constructed first. The New York Chapter of Architects for Humanity New York and other organizations and institutions based in New York and Singapore have expressed interest in assisting with the design of the OI campus and its 100+ buildings. The campus will be open to the local community and offer feeding and educational programs for all neighborhood children as funds become available.

"The core value Architects for Humanity can add to this project is our ability to open the project up to a large, diverse group of knowledgeable people and in bringing a creative discourse to begin establishing key parameters for the projects that will constitute your orphanage campus," states Jason Buchheit, co-director of AFH-New York.

The Professional Alliance for Technology and Habitation (P-A-T-H) is a voluntary group of professionals from all walks of life coming together in New York to provide technical support to community groups such as OI. "In response to the tsunami, P-A-T-H has initiated 'The NY Tsunami/Seismic Shelter Group' to bring together individuals and institutions who will focus on sustainable post-disaster shelter planning and design," according to the organization's founder Makrand Bhoot. The Pratt Institute School of Architecture has also expressed an interest in working with OI Sumatra to design the planned 40-acre campus.

At this point, twelve small homes have been pledged by several Rotary Club chapters on Long Island, communities in New York and Washington , as well as the Broadway theatre community. Benefits have already begun and are being planned for February in venues from art galleries and churches to a Broadway theater and the Jacob Javits Convention Center. A small home to house four children will cost approximately $16,000 to construct and furnish. 48 other small homes remain available for sponsorship.

OI Sumatra aims to provide a continuing and long-lived base of support for the tsunami victims. The campus is slated to be fully integrated into the local community, and serve as a locus of interaction for international humanitarian organizations working with Indonesian NGOs in Sumatra.

"Orphans International differs remarkably from many other institutions as our goal is not to warehouse children but to transform them into global citizens," Luce states. "Though our interfaith approach, high adult-to-child ratio, and emphasis on education, the arts and athletics, we are not merely rescuing tsunami victims, but attempting to raise the next generation of leadership in Indonesia," Luce adds.

In addition to the launch of OI Sumatra, OI Bali founder Sirait has announced that OI's original two Indonesian projects -- OI Bali and OI Sulawesi -- would each double their capacity to welcome children tragically orphaned by the tsunami that has killed over 100,000 in Indonesia alone. "Children in schools from New York to Colorado are now raising pennies to assist us," states Luce.

"The enormous scale of this disaster precludes any one organization or government from stabilizing the situation," states OI America board member Tim Vanover. "However, if every NGO on the ground there could assist to their maximum capacity it would alleviate much suffering and despair," he adds. Vanover continued, "I am proud that OI can play a modest role in securing the future of a significant number of the most unfortunate victims -- the children."

OI's mission is to help orphaned or abandoned children grow into solid citizens of the world through a stable, family-like environment that is simultaneously interfaith, interracial, international, intergenerational, and Internet-connected. "Our new Aceh orphans will be given the same opportunities as the rest of our children," states Luce.

While OI has received enough funding to embark upon this ambitious project, additional support will be required to provide the highest level of support for as many orphans as possible. Tax-deductible contributions for the Emergency Tsunami Fund, may be sent to Orphans International America, 540 Main Street #418 , New York , N.Y. 10044 , earmarked "OI Tsunami Orphans Fund." More information can be obtained from the organization's website,, and contributions may be made on-line at . Small homes cost $16,000 each and it is $600 to sponsor a child for one year.

OI America is a not-for-profit corporation incorporated in the State of New York in 2002 and listed with the N.Y.S. Department of Charities. The organization is designated as a 501(c)(3) charity by the IRS. All Indonesian affiliates are incorporated and registered in Indonesia as well; Sulawesi was incorporated in 2001 and Bali in 2004. Other affiliates are being formed in Guyana, Haiti and Togo.