Tsunami Aftermath: CRS Rebuilding Nears Finish

Meulaboh, Indonesia August 30, 2008

David Snyder for CRS

I am beginning a trip with Catholic Relief Services in what has become familiar ground for me since December 2004 – Indonesia’s Aceh Province, which was devastated by the Asian tsunami. I was here originally in May 2005 to see how people were getting on, nearly six months after the massive wave struck. Tens of thousands of Indonesians were killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Coming up now on four years since that disaster, this is a very different place than it was when I was last here in 2007. Everywhere, homes, roads, mosques and schools have been rebuilt. Villages destroyed by the tsunami have risen again, many of them in new locations, as much of the land in the original village sites was permanently flooded following the tsunami.

Having been in Asia in the days and weeks after that disaster, and having followed the progress of areas like Aceh, I know first hand what role CRS played in that genesis.

Here in Meulaboh alone, one of the largest cities in the hard-hit Aceh Province, CRS built 2,657 permanent homes – sheltering more than 13,000 people. I spent this week with them, and heard firsthand what a difference those homes have made. Perhaps most telling of the time I spent with those beneficiaries was the response I got repeatedly when I asked how they would have rebuilt had they not had help from CRS. Everyone just laughed. “Impossible,” they said simply.

Having worked for years as a staff member with CRS, four of them serving on the agency’s Emergency Response Team, I have seen many disasters around the world.  I wish I could show each person who supported agencies responding to the tsunami just how much of an impact their money has had here in Meulaboh. It has been a fascinating experience to see that change evolve over the last four years.

I am off now to India to photograph CRS efforts there to combat the spread of HIV, which now infects as many as 5.5 million people in India. From there I head to Bangladesh, and then on to Bosnia, visiting CRS projects in each country. I will post more to the blog along the way, so stay tuned.

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