Indonesia – The First Time I’ve Cried

Allison Zelkowitz, program manager, Save the Children

Oct. 5, 2009, 11:40pm, Indonesia

Allison's blog also appears on Anderson Cooper's 360 blog page.


Allison Zelkowitz It’s hard to believe I’ve only been here four days – it feels like weeks! Our team is working very long hours, both here in the field and in our coordination centers. I don’t think twice about calling or texting my team members at midnight, because I know they’ll be up for at least two more hours. The urgency of this situation keeps us going. Hundreds of thousands of people – including children – are still trying to meet their basic needs. Today I spoke to a number of women who were gathering rainwater in order to bathe and wash their clothes. Save the Children is continuing to provide shelter materials, and I saw people rigging the tarps as soon as they left the distribution post. In nearly every village, community members take turns standing by the main road, flagging down passing cars and gathering donations. Most use these funds immediately to buy food to cook communal meals.

Save the Children has reached an estimated 4,600 people in the last two days, including over 2,700 children, with family hygiene kits, household supplies, and shelter materials. But there are so many more that need help. Tomorrow we’re traveling to more remote villages northwest of here, near Lake Maninjau. Our team leader toured the area this afternoon – in some communities, every house has collapsed. We’ll do a rapid assessment of the area tomorrow morning and start distributing supplies tomorrow afternoon. 

Today, at one of the distribution sites, I spoke to a 54-year-old woman whose mother was killed in the earthquake. I didn’t expect this – there were fewer casualties in rural areas because most homes are only one story high, and people have time to escape. When she told me her story her eyes started welling up, and although I tried to suppress them, mine did as well. In the four years that I’ve been working in development and humanitarian agencies, this is the first time I’ve cried.

Learn more about Save the Children's response in Indonesia.


  1. Allison,

    I always knew in my heart even when you were a very young Blue Ridge student that you would find a way to make a difference in our world. I couldn’t be prouder of you.

    Much love,
    Mrs. Williams

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