Indonesia: Australian Red Cross handed over a house in Nias

Jakarta, Indonesia-Relief -- The Australian Red Cross promised to build 254 houses in for tsunami and earthquake survivors Nias Island. How many houses have been completed? Just one. And recently, the house has been handed over to Joshua family in Sirombu whose house survived from tsunami but destroyed by last March earthquake.
''I wish you many happy years in your new family home,'' said Robert Tickner, Chief Executive of the Australian Red Cross, when handing a silver key to Joshua, his wife Rosinta and three children for their new house in the village of Sirombu, Nias district.

Joshua's family, according to latest IFRC release, was the first to receive the gift of a new house from the project, worth some 600,000 Australian dollars. In months to come, hundreds more people will move to homes built with donations to the Red Cross by the Australian people.

''It means a lot to have a place I can call my home,'' said Joshua holding back tears.

Some 300 people perished in the tsunami disaster on Nias, which lies off the western coast of Sumatra, and damage to infrastructure was widespread. Joshua's family was lucky, however. Their house was spared the worst of nature's fury, surviving the disaster with only minor damage.

But worse was to come. In March a second massive earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale rocked Nias. Churches, schools, shops and small businesses were destroyed. Entire communities were reduced to rubble.

According to the United Nations, the March earthquake killed over 1,000 people and made hundreds of families homeless, including Joshua's, when buildings already weakened by the Boxing Day earthquake collapsed.

Joshua was at home when the second violent earthquake reduced his house to shattered masonry, broken glass and timber. ''I was sad to lose my house,'' said Joshua. ''But at least my wife and children were saved, thank God.''

Not wanting to stray far from home, the family lived in a tent for three months on a grass and dirt verge close to their shattered home.

It is now three months since the March earthquake, and people like Joshua and Rosinta have a chance to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

On Nias, Australian Red Cross works with the Zero to One Foundation to help build 254 houses, nine bridges, two schools, three clean water systems and one first aid centre on Nias.

Many of the homes are still to be built. But on a large green paddock not far from the destroyed village of Sirombu, the shape of new houses under construction and their foundation stones are clearly visible. Although they may be modest dwellings by western standards, here in Sirombu the community welcomes them.

The housing project won't be finished for some months. And though many families in Sirombu will have to endure temporary accommodation for a little while longer, very soon many families of this broken but beautiful village will once more have a place of their own. © dil