Last Day in Padang: October 29, 2009

 

Ingrid Lund, Save the Children, communications officer, Padang, Indonesia

 

Today is my last day in the “Big Brother” house here in Padang as my plane back home to Norway leaves at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning. I can’t believe that I’ve been here for three weeks already … or that I haven’t been here for three months. Strangely enough I have both those feelings at the same time.

 

I know I have been talking quite a bit about losing a grip on time. But it’s really a strange feeling. Each day is so long and extreme that it gets hard to remember the day before. In that respect it feels like I’ve been in Indonesia forever. The constant combination of too much work, too little sleep, and a complete lack of privacy ensure that I experience an enormous amount of both exciting and not-so-exciting things every day.

 

In a way, this feels like home now. My colleagues here in Padang have been my entire life the last three weeks. We’ve been together 24/7 and know so much about each other by now; we’re almost family J

 

On the other hand, it’s going to be fantastic to get back to my actual home. I just can’t stop dreaming about that real shower I’ll be having, hot water pouring endlessly over my head. The opportunity to rinse the shampoo out of my hair for the first time in three weeks. Clean clothes. Oh, this might very well be the best shower of my life!

 

Tomorrow, when I start my long journey home to that shower, exactly one month will have passed since the earthquake hit West Sumatra. So far, Save the Children has provided more than 98,000 people – including almost 50,000 children – with critical shelter and relief supplies. This means that

 

Save the Children has mounted the largest relief effort of any international non-governmental organization in response to the quake. This means we’re two-thirds on our way to our goal to reach 150,000 people, including 75,000 children with essential relief. That’s great and most certainly makes up for the 80-90 hours long work weeks! 

 

Schooltents_022_case-1 Thinking back, 12-year-old Popot might be the person I’ve met here who has made the biggest impression on me. Her house was completely destroyed during the earthquake.

 

I met Popot in one of the 80 school tents that Save the Children has erected so far.

 

I noticed her because she was the girl with the broadest smile and the biggest laugh. She looked genuinely happy to be in  school with her friends.

 

I will never forget Popot’s big smile!   

 

Learn more about Save the Children's emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region.

45,000 Children and Families Hardest Hit by the Sumatra Earthquake Get Life-saving Relief from Save the Children

Ed. note: Two-and-a-half weeks after a magnitude-7.9 earthquake shattered West Sumatra, Save the Children has provided critical shelter and relief items to 8,676 households, or 44,380 people, 60 percent of them children.

Ingrid Lund, Save the Children, communications officer, Padang, Indonesia

Ingrid_web The village Batu Basa lies in the hills in Aur Malintang district in West Sumatra. This area was hard hit by the earthquake. Here 90–95 percent of the population can no longer live in their houses, which are completely destroyed or in danger of collapsing.

Today, Save the Children is distributing hygiene kits in Batu Basa. The rain is pouring down. Therefore, the distribution is taking place inside a large, green tent the government has erected next to the narrow road that passes through the village. The tent has no floor. Four men sits on plastic chairs. In a corner are three younger men and a boy relaxing and leaning against some cardboard boxes from Save the Children containing the hygiene items.

 

"This is a very difficult situation for all of us. My house was completely destroyed in the earthquake. Now 15 peopl, me included, are sleeping in thhis tent. We have nowhere else to go. When it rains like this, everything inside the tent gets soaking wet," Says Hari.

 

Save the Children staff are working round the clock to deliver relief to the most vulnerable children and their families.

 

The agency plans to reach 150,000 people — among them 90,000 children — with shelter, household and hygiene kits. These kits include plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, a cook stove, pots, pans, cutlery, soap, toothbrush, detergent and other hygiene items. 

 

(Pictured below, more than 8,400 shelter kits being unloaded from the first of three airplanes bringing supplies.)

 

IndonesReszdWeb_Fly_081

Save the Children has been able to quickly deliver vital supplies to the worst-hit areas because we had items stored in warehouses in Indonesia before the earthquake. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters, and we know that advance preparation is the key to saving lives and mitigating the effects of a crisis,” said Peter Sykes, Save the Children’s team leader in West Sumatra.

Save the Children has worked in Indonesia for over three decades. In recent years, it has responded to nearly all minor, medium-sized and major natural disasters in the country.

In addition to providing immediate relief to children and families after a disaster, the agency helps communities prepare for emergencies and develop the capacity to reduce risks posted by disasters in the future.

Learn more about Save the Children's emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region.

Save the Children Provides Supplies to Crowds in Indonesia

Allison Zelkowitz, program manager

Padang, Indonesia

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

October 11, 2009, 11:26 PM

Allison Zelkowitzrszd10.12.doc Our distribution teams had a packed day – with just 14 people, we managed to provide nearly 1,500 families with hygiene kits and household items such as a small gas stove, cooking pots and utensils, mosquito nets and blankets.

Before I arrived in Padang eight days ago, I never knew how much planning, organizing and effort goes into providing needed supplies, or “NFIs,” as they’re called in humanitarian aid lingo. NFIs stands for non-food items.

Besides selecting, procuring, storing, shipping and transporting NFIs, distributing them requires an intensive process. First, Save the Children staff members meet with community leaders, assess the damage in each community, determine each community’s need and help community leaders develop a list of recipients — the people who most need them.

The actual distribution of NFIs usually begins the next day, and that’s when it can get tricky. The goal is to make sure the right goods get to the right families, while maintaining a secure environment for those who are receiving items, as well as for those who are distributing them. Crowds are sometimes unpredictable. 

This evening, as my team began our final distribution of the day, I worried a bit since the crowd seemed more eager than usual, pushing against the tape barrier and repeatedly venturing into the distribution area. But once the distribution process began, the tension somehow turned into festivity.

NFIsindonesia One community member stationed himself at the distribution area exit and blew a shrill whistle at anyone who tried to cross the line. He did this with such zeal and humor that every time he warned someone away, the crowd broke into laughter. Children raced around the perimeter, and neighbors teased each other as they hefted the large boxes away.

At one point, I looked around at the more than 100 faces around me, and realized how impressed I was with the resiliency of people here. About 90 percent of them – children, women and men – no longer have a home. And yet there they were, just one week later, smiling, joking and truly enjoying the moment. 

Learn more about Save the Children's emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesia Quakes Leave Thousands of Children Homeless

Allison Zelkowitz, Save the Children program manager

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

October 9, 2009, 11:00 PM 

Our new field office consists of two bedrooms and a sitting room on the second floor of a large home bordered by rice terraces. This could almost be Bali, if it weren’t for the collapsed houses next door.

The landlady here is about 70 years old and less than five feet tall; she has a wonderful smile. She’s not only housing us, but she’s also taken in 1015 of her neighbors, who sleep on the floor downstairs. This house has become quite a community center – there are always a dozen or more children playing outside or watching TV. Most of these children are now homeless.

IndonChildReszdDSC_0119 Today I brought some crayons, coloring books, paper and markers for our landlady to keep in the house. When I showed them to the kids, I thought they were unimpressed.

But as soon as I walked away, they immediately dove into the box and started drawing. I think many haven’t seen crayons or toys in a week.

Many mothers and teachers have told us that children here have been traumatized by the earthquake.

I’ve heard that some are afraid to leave their parents’ side, and I’ve seen kids jump when a helicopter flies overhead or a large truck trundles past. Yet they still have so much capacity for joy. 

 

This afternoon I was sitting under a tent surrounded by eight children – their parents were waiting to claim the hygiene kits and shelter materials Save the Children was distributing. I made some faces at the kids for a while, and tried to get them to sing (they refused). But then I showed them the “separating thumb trick,” which they watched with a mix of awe, glee and terror. When I asked if they wanted to learn how to do it, they ran off screaming and giggling. 

Sometimes I love my job.

Learn more about Save the Children's emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region.