Top Tsunami Relief Providers Reflect on Response After One Year

With the one year anniversary of one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters approaching, World Vision (WV) – voted best Tsunami relief provider in Indonesia and India – hopes to strengthen its recovery program the coming years.

“This has been a year of impossibilities becoming possible, a series of minor miracles, of daunting targets and activity schedules becoming achievable and realized through the dedication of so many people. God's hand has really been on us as we have seen His Grace in so many ways,” says Ian Curtis, World Vision Asia Tsunami Response Team (ATRT) Director.

In response to the Dec. 26 tsunami that claimed more than 200,000 people and left millions of survivors homeless, World Vision quickly mobilized emergency relief teams to meet the needs of the survivors.

WV has continued it efforts, working alongside the natives in the countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Myanmar to build homes, restore livelihoods, restore education, and much more.

The organization’s relief and recovery response includes construction of permanent shelter, which is underway, with plans to build more than 13,000 homes; distributing food aid to more than 500,000; supporting close to 200 Child Friendly Spaces and 138 playgrounds; construction of 30 schools; and distribution of educational supplies and support for 134,000 children to help them return to regular schooling.

World Vision has also helped restore livelihoods and landscapes in tsunami-affected communities by funding jobs for 12,000 people in debris clearing, digging drainage ditches and building roads. The relief agency, in addition, has helped more than 13,000 families restart fishing livelihoods with boats, nets and supplies.

Furthermore, WV has provided loans and productive assets, skills training, rebuilt a busy market place, and funded batik-making and boat-building centers to help grow local economies.

In Thailand, a youth-run radio station has been started for community talkback on tsunami issues.

In addition, a new mobile blood bank is servicing war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka and mangrove plantations protect communities from the tsunami are being expanded throughout coastal Thailand with WV’s assistance.

In India, previous fisher-folk are opening bank accounts and are saving income for the first time.

The tsunami also provided unexpected opportunities such as in Aceh, where a WV agricultural project turned saline land, which had little hope for recovery, into a land that is now producing 2.5 times more than before the tsunami, benefiting hundreds of newly trained farming families.

WV also reported that women who once suffered in rubber plantations are forming successful businesses in batik-design and are receiving many orders.

“The ability of communities and households to bounce back after the tsunami has been remarkable. The unprecedented size of the response mounted this year is testament to the resilience of communities and dedication of those involved in this effort,” says Rein Paulsen, ATRT Operations Director. “Our recovery program in 2006 will be larger than this year’s, allowing even more support to be provided to those affected by the tsunami.”

World Vision staff will be part of commemoration ceremonies, including a special candle-lighting event I Thailand’s Phuket resort.

“Nearly 1,700 staff are now working for the program,” says Curtis. “Not one of these knew they would be working in this response on Christmas Day last year. It has been a challenge hiring so many people, but a deep joy to see them working together under so much pressure to assist the thousands of beneficiaries. And some of these staff were impacted themselves and have lost family members, relatives and dear friends.

“For them this has been a personal response as well as a World Vision response that has helped to bring healing,” he adds. “Staff have worked intensely and for long hours every week, but they have also seen so many things happen which have continually brought them encouragement.

“I am so grateful to each one of them for their dedication, but we need to remember to pray for those who were personally impacted as the anniversary will reopen deep wounds.”

World Vision plans to serve tsunami-hit communities for the next 2 – 5 years, implementing programs that first and foremost support the capacities and aspirations of affected communities, with a special focus on the needs of children.