Following a 7-13 January 2005 visit to Banda Aceh by its director, the POHD (the social service arm of the Catholic Church in Penang) has successfully developed a direct link with Forum LSM Aceh, a group of 28 Aceh-based Indonesian NGOs. (LSM stands for Lembaga Swadaya Masyarakat which is the Indonesian term for NGOs.)
Forum LSM Aceh has set up relief centres in remote villages and small towns in the districts of Lhokseumawe, Sigli, Aceh Besar and Banda Aceh. Very little foreign aid has reached these centres thus far.
On 13 January 2005, a ship carrying 165 tonnes of relief supplies left Penang for Kruengbuehkueh, a port just outside Lhokseumawe on the northeast coast of Sumatra. These supplies included rice, instant noodles, canned food, milk powder, bottled water, medical supplies, clothes and individualised "goodie bags" (which included bras, panties and sanitary napkins for women and razors and briefs for men in addition to soap, combs, cotton buds, towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste). Also sent were copies of the Qur'an and prayer attire, as directly requested by some of the relief workers in Banda Aceh.
All these items were donated by concerned Penangites to the POHD and to the Mahindarama Buddhist Temple, Penang. Money donated was also used to purchase some of these supplies. The good news is all these supplies were collected by Forum LSM Aceh volunteers by the next day and transported to Banda Aceh, a five-hour journey by road.
There is a dire need for more aid in the relief camps and centres run by Forum LSM Aceh. Funds are needed not only to provide relief aid but to help our Aceh counterparts to put the victims back on their feet. Only when this happens will their healing truly begin and their dignity be restored.
We appeal to you to help support this effort by Penang-based NGOs, coordinated by the POHD and Aceh-based NGOs. Very little of donated funds is spent on overheads as the people involved in the relief effort and other forms of assistance here as well as in Aceh are volunteers. We thank you for your kind donations that will go directly to those in need.