Following the emergency response and nascent recovery efforts in Aceh, the newly-hired AFSC Indonesia Relief and Recovery Coordinator spent two months in Aceh province, one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami. Her time was spent assessing the needs, the resources, and the political situation throughout the province; connecting with existing and emerging local groups and networks; identifying sound projects to support; and developing plans for future partnerships.
Five months after the tsunami, communities are still in disarray. AFSC has found that the area of East Aceh on the northeast shore of Sumatra has received very little assistance, due to its isolation and nearness to the conflict zone, despite the fact the villages on the coast were heavily impacted by the tsunami. The three most pressing issues continue to be housing, livelihood, and the loss of human life and social infrastructure. The first task upon arrival in a community is to find out who and what is left; the tsunami took community and family leaders at every level. At the same time, new leaders are emerging and groups and networks are proving to be creative, organized, and effective, even with the most limited resources. Working through these Indonesian networks, AFSC is finding worthy projects and partners to support that are meeting immediate and longer term needs.
Operating from the principle that Indonesians themselves are best suited to identify the needs of their own communities, AFSC supports local groups comprised of people who live in the community in which they work and who are willing to work cooperatively with one another. AFSC provides support for capacity building and recovery needs; leadership, organizing, and implementation come from the community members themselves. Following are some of the projects that have received AFSC assistance so far:
- A village in North Sumatra, outside the relief target areas of Aceh and Nias, lost all its fishing boats and equipment to the large waves that swept through the area. As a result, more than 600 families are without a livelihood and people have been scavenging small fish along the shoreline. AFSC provided an initial shipment of food aid, the first they received, connected the village with the World Food Program and provided funds for working groups, half of them women, to buy boats and fishing gear to communally rebuild livelihood structures. AFSC is also supporting the establishment of a preschool center for 80 village children while their parents are working to scavenge for food and rebuild their livelihoods.
- In a village of 300 families in Sigli, following discussions with villagers, AFSC is providing funds for equipment and supplies to restart economic activities, specifically sewing machines for the sewing groups and supplies for the basket weaving cooperative. Seamstresses are organizing production of school uniforms, which to date have been imported from Medan, in order to include more women in production and give more families an income. The baskets are made of rattan, which is collected by local villagers, and sold to the cooperative to use in basket manufacture. They sell the baskets to fishermen who may use up to 100 baskets per boat. Thus, three sectors of the economic community benefit from this assistance. Planning for other projects include salt farming; fish processing; animal husbandry; street vending. Many of these enterprises are undertaken by women, including many widowed by the conflict or tsunami.
- To reestablish leprosy treatment for a community in North Aceh, AFSC is providing funds to rebuild a village clinic and to make initial assessments. The leprosy community is part of a village of 230 families. The affected families lived in an isolation area that was on the seashore and they lost their homes and boats. Although the larger village also lost many homes, they have prioritized the reconstruction and treatment for their leper relatives. A previous treatment program by the World Health Organization had been discontinued due to nearby armed conflict. Discussions with police and military indicate that they are supportive of restarting the treatment program.
- Many emerging or recovering Acehenese groups are trying to do community organizing without any access to transportation or communications infrastructure, either because their equipment had been destroyed in the earthquake and tsunami or because they had previously relied on local infrastructures which had been destroyed. AFSC provided a grant for basic equipment (computers, office supplies, and motorcycles) to 11 local groups along the north shore to establish better working conditions for these local non-governmental organizations as they address emergency needs in the villages.
- The coconut wood homes that were designed by an Indonesian architect, with support from AFSC and in partnership with the villagers of Penaga Pasi, are now in production. The villagers are completing each stage of the process for all 82 homes, so that all will have a home at the same time and not some have homes and some not. Although not as fancy as the concrete housing being built elsewhere, these houses fit in with village aesthetics and culture, they are easy to maintain with locally available materials, they are earthquake proof, and because they are assembled with bolts, they are mobile in the event that the government requires the village to relocate. The villagers are pleased with them.
AFSC will continue to fund community organizing through local NGOs; closely monitor local NGOs' operations and organizational capacity; and fund primarily light economic recovery and startup activities with villages as they prepare to receive larger assistance. AFSC will seek additional partners to supply urgent food and basic needs, medicines, housing, women's and children's supplies, and materials for livelihoods.