Indonesia: Five years after the tsunami

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On December 26, 2004 an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia caused a tsunami that took the lives of more than 300,000 people in Southern Asia. In response, CRWRC was blessed to receive nearly $6.5 million from individuals, churches, and businesses. This was matched by government and other grants, enabling CRWRC to spend nearly $16 million on a tsunami-response over the course of 5 years. Here is one story of how that aid made a difference.

Meet Safrizal, a 50-year old chili farmer from Lhoong's Teungoh Geunteut village in Indonesia. Five years ago, prior to the tsunami, Safrizal worked in a health clinic as an administrator. As a hobby, he planted chili peppers.

When the tsunami stuck, the health clinic was destroyed and Safrizal lost his livelihood. But he still had his life skills, intelligence, and a determined desire to survive and rebuild. He still had hope.

Safrizal also had about a hectare of land that he used to start a new business: intensive chili farming. CRWRC was there to help him establish his business by providing farming inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and plastic sheets to cover the soil before planting.

"Without this help, I cannot imagine what would happen," Safrizal said about CRWRC's assistance, "definitely my children would not go to school, and I don't know what my future will be."

Now, Safrizal works in the field daily with seven or eight young men whom he hired from his village-all of them orphaned by the tsunami. They till. They sow. They harvest and then sell the chilies at the market. And they share in the profits.

Because of Safrizal's past experience with chili growing and also his willingness and foresight to employ the orphans in his village, CRWRC saw the potential transformation that this business could have not only on the individuals directly involved, but also on the village as a whole.

The community is reporting that less crime is taking place. A sense of dignity has been restored for the young people in the group; they no longer feel helpless. Two of them are now married. Life is returning to normal.

"I would like to thank the Canadian and U.S. people who have given their funds to help not only me, but also people in Aceh in general," Safrizal said." I thank them a thousand times, and I cannot say it enough."

Safrizal is well-respected in his village, as a leader, a mentor and business owner. After his next harvest of chili, he plans to let the land rest for a season and then return to plant soybeans.

by David Raakman