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02/11/05 12:00AM
Total Collected:
US$ 69,122.10

Journal from the Ground
by Saiful Mahdi

Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - uploaded 01/23/05 5:40PM

¬[01/10/05] [01/12/05]®

Around 6:30am. I woke up but wasn’t very rested. Although it was fine for me to sleep on the floor, the heat and humidity in our badly-ventilated command post woke me up several times. Also, last night we had a long discussion on how to refine our post management. I tried to emphasize the need for better housekeeping in our place. “It is true that we need to work hard every minute we have to help the IDPs and other victims of the disaster, but we should remember this is going to be a long and exhausting effort, a “marathon” with a “sprint” at the beginning,” I tried to assure my friends who are so sincere in working for others. I know these people. They are tireless community organizers and activists. It’s very hard to stop them.

7:15am. Tar and I went to the nearest coffee shop for some coffee and breakfast. I am adjusting to changing my habit of eating cold milk and cereal in Ithaca, to heavy “Nasi Gurih”, rice cooked with coconut milk accompanied by eggs, anchovies, or chicken. Acehnese eat fish and seafood a lot as our region is surrounded by sea. Here in Aceh, we have barbeque with fish instead of meat. But that was in heavenly Aceh. Now, people avoid eating seafood after the tsunami which claimed so many lives.

By 8:30am, we were busy at our post again. Volunteers were already engaged with their daily morning chores again. Some were assigning IDP places where today deliveries are to be made. Others were rationing basic supplies according to number of households or people at one IDP site. Pickup trucks were ready and many people were coming to the post already.

Volunteers distributing cooking oil rations from big buckets. Supplies flow very smoothly on trucks from Medan or other cities in Aceh, to warehouses, to categorization, to rationing, to pickup trucks, to IDPs at places where they are taking shelters (11/1)


PCC volunteers discussing supply management and deliveries. (Morning of 11/1).

After visiting our destroyed house for the third time, looking for our love ones around the debris, trying to save valuable documents, but without success, I decided to let it go for a while until I can get more help at a later time to dig deeper under the debris. If I was burning out already by the third day on ground zero, I could not even think what my brother and in-laws were feeling.

Kamaruddin, in the white shirt (my surviving brother-in-law) and my brother during our third visit to our house in devastated Punge Jurong of Banda Aceh (11/1).


Simple databases are maintained for missing and found persons as well as for IDPs and information regarding supplies. (11/1).

Around 10am. As I explained before, it is very hard for me to be around the front desk of our post every morning. Too many heartbreaking stories and scenes to hear and see there. I am especially “weakened” by seeing people post flyers containing info of their loved ones. Once I saw a man with folder full of flyers of his whole family missing. One could easily notice that the man was under unbearable stress. Other people were busy reading line-by-line postings of found people. That is why I am really amazed by the volunteers who can bear the whole day of sitting at the front desk serving the people. They are really the best of the Acehnese!

A posting board is available in front of our place for people to post their own flyers or read other flyers with info. Sixteen days after the quake and tsunami, if our love ones are still alive, where are they? (11/1)


At times when supplies arrive, we do not have enough room to store them before deliveries. They are then stored under a big tent we built or just covered by plastics sheets in front of PCC command post. This picture was taken just after we’d received supplies from Terres des Hommes (TDH) of Germany and Holland. (11/1).

Our rented car was out to transport my friends who need to visit their relatives. I planned to visit some old friends today. But work at the post kept me busy.

At around noon, I decided to back off from the front “office” area and found a place at the back of a big cupboard in the middle of the first floor. I was busy arranging to ‘evacuate’ my surviving sister, her three kids and husband tomorrow. I also called some friends to find out their situation and to exchange information. All of them were surprised but happy to know that I am already in Banda Aceh. Many asked how long I was going to be in Aceh. Well, it was a tough question to answer. I want to stay as long as possible in our beloved Aceh, but I have to consider many things in making my decision. My family in Ithaca, my school, funding, and long term expectations and needs are among others. The bottom line question for me and for most of Acehnese like me who happened to be outside Aceh at the moment is “From where can and do we help the most?” From outside or within Aceh at ground zero? We are torn by this question. Some friends of mine were weeping like babies, desperately wanting to go home, but could not due to many different reasons.

3:20pm. I met with some friends from Helen Keller International, an international NGO which is already well known in Indonesia for having great programs in health services. Foremost is their activity in giving Vitamin A drops to kids under 12 years old. They wanted to hire up to 200 volunteers to help give drops around IDP shelters in camps or at houses around Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar. The volunteers would undergo three hours of training. PCC was requested to provide five groups of two for next week’s pilot training sessions. The very specific service HKI provides reminds me that I need to focus on one or two things I could do better in helping the affected. When everybody is doing their share on specific issues, there should be enough services for all affected people. So far, we are tempted to do “anything” we can think of, but not necessarily things at which we excel. Everybody is in a rush to help.

5:30pm. We dropped some basic supplies where my mother-in-law (Dian’s mom) stayed in Montasik. She has been in charge of her whole extended family as five of her siblings were in pilgrimage for Hajj in Mecca. She had to take care of all her nieces and nephews as well as her mother who just got out of the hospital before the quake and tsunami hit Banda Aceh. After dropping the supplies, we went back to the post. Although not as busy, the post is always a good place to end the day. Some of us not volunteering at PCC might go anywhere during the day. But the unwritten consensus is to get back together again at the end of the day. To report back, share information, and chat for fun. We sometimes do this while eating dinner or just enjoying a cup of coffee. This occasion reminds me of Hakiem Nankoe, a very dear friend in Ithaca who said “Find ways to keep your sanity!” Indeed, we need to hold our selves together, reflect, and sometimes try to relax so we can keep working for our fellow Acehnese and others who’ve been affected by the big quake and tsunami.

8:55pm. My brother and I decide to go back and sleep at our sister’s brother-in-law’s place again so we can leave for Sigli and Medan early in the morning the next day. After a cool shower, we went directly to bed so we could refresh ourselves for a long trip to temporarily “evacuate” my surviving sister and her family.

9:40pm. A small quake again and this makes many people hysterical!

¬[01/10/05] [01/12/05]®