Indonesia: Singing a new tune five years after the Tsunami

News and Press Release
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By Nanda Aprilia, American Red Cross communications specialist in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

It's Friday and the students at SMPN 1 junior high school in Krueng Sabee, Indonesia are not reading, writing or studying arithmetic, instead they are busy playing sports, dancing, singing and painting.

Down the hall, there is a beautiful voice singing a familiar national song. The voice is coming from Afni Suriyanti, a 13-year-old girl.

After talking to her for just a few minutes, it is obvious that she is very optimistic about her future, despite her very tragic past.

Afni was eight years old when the Indian Ocean Tsunami struck; she lost her mother, home and community. Her village of Lhok Buya was totally destroyed and almost everyone was killed. Luckily, Afni was at her grandmother's house and was able to run to higher ground with her brother and grandmother.

"My brother and I slept at my grandmother's house every weekend, but I didn't know that on that weekend I would lose my mother," Afni remembers. "My father died a year before from a serious illness, so I was so sad when I found out that I didn't have a mother anymore."

Afni dreams of becoming a doctor one day.

"I don't want other kids to lose their father at a young age like me," she said.

Together with her brother and grandmother, they lived in a temporary shelter immediately after the tsunami and attended an emergency school built nearby.

"We studied with very limited resources, but we were happy because we got help from many people," she said.

After about five months, Afni began attending a permanent school where she not only studied the standard subjects but also participated in informal activities such as drawing, singing and making handicrafts.

"These kinds of activities made me feel happy and helped me forget the sadness of losing my mom," she said.

"At first, she was very silent and didn't talk to other people, but through the informal school activities she became more active and gained enough confidence to sing in front of many people together with other friends," says Abdul Jabar, the head master of SMPN 1 junior high school.

The informal activities that Afni participated in are part of the American Red Cross Psychosocial Support Program (PSP) which helps students cope with the emotional trauma from the tsunami. In total, the American Red Cross has helped more than 782,500 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives through PSP and trained more than 29,000 local PSP instructors.

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