LWR Tsunami Delegation Finds Much Work Remaining in Affected Countries

A delegation from Lutheran World Relief (LWR) returned from its two week tour of the tsunami-affected countries of India and Indonesia, reporting that although survivors expressed gratitude for the work LWR and its partners have done, much work remains for the long-term recovery process.

The delegation, led by LWR president Kathryn Wolford, departed for Southeast Asia on Oct. 10 to learn firsthand the impact of LWR’s relief response in the tsunami-affected countries and about the challenges for long term recovery, reported LWR in a recent newsletter. When the group returned on Oct. 22, they reported that the recovery and rebuilding process will require a long time.

"One is at loss for words to describe the extent of the devastation caused by the tsunami," Kirk Betts, vice chair of the LWR Board, said in a statement released by LWR.

“It will take a long time to rebuild their communities and to restore the rhythm of the lives. The wisdom of LWR's early commitment to accompany them for the long haul is so very apparent after one has walked with these people,” he added.

During its trip, the Christian relief and development organization visited affected communities in the area of Pondicherry, along the coast of South India, and the two communities of Banda Aceh, at the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, and Meulaboh in Indonesia. In Pondicherry, LWR is working with two church organizations in disaster response and recovery: UELCI (United Evangelical Lutheran Church of India) and CASA (Churches Auxiliary for Social Action). Meanwhile, in Indonesia, LWR is working with three partner organizations including: Yayasan Tanggul Bencana, a Christian relief and development organization; Yakkum Emergency Unit, a Christian organization focusing on community-based health care and disaster response; and Church World Service, the relief and development arm of the National Council of Churches (NCC), LWR reported.

The delegation also visited programs focused on the restoration of livelihoods – such as projects to restore fishing boats and nets and reestablish farming and small businesses lost in the tsunami – as well as programs providing psychosocial counseling to the survivors and programs addressing water, sanitation and healthcare needs.

In addition, the LWR delegation met with project leaders to learn about issues related to land rights and their impact on long-term plans to reconstruct houses and infrastructure, the LWR report noted.

To gain a better understanding of the situation, the LWR delegation also spoke with LWR partner organizations and staff operating the programs and to villagers who were benefiting from the program.

"It was wonderful to see first-hand the long-term commitment and effective partnerships Lutheran World Relief has made to bring hope to people who have lost so much," said Karin Hope, the legislative director for the office of representative for Minn. Congressman Jim Ramsted.

LWR president, Kathryn Wolford, also commended the work of LWR staffs and partner organizations and addressed the changes she hopes to see in the future.

"Our partners are doing incredible work," Wolford said. "The tsunami highlighted the need for increased investment and some important opportunities for change. We hope that the momentum will continue beyond the immediate recovery and reconstruction, and will look toward strengthening communities across the affected region – improving their standard of living, rekindling hope and helping them be better prepared for the next disaster."

Nine months have passed since the deadly tsunami struck shores across the Indian Ocean, killing over 250,000 people and leaving survivors without homes or a source of income. During this difficult time period, LWR through its supporters has raised $18 million for the Wave of Giving campaign to help South Asia rebuild and recover.

LWR is committed to staying in the region up to 10 years.