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

Summary Updates
by Saiful Mahdi

January 24, 2005 - uploaded 02/10/05 11:00AM

¬[01/23/05] [01/25/05]®

8:15am. I was ready to go to Darussalam where Syiah Kuala University is located. It is the biggest university in Aceh and I have been a lecturer there since 1993. I think the university has a great chance to learn from all the various national and international agency sources suddenly available in Banda Aceh. But it needs to come forward and take the lead on many fronts which I’m sure it’s capable of.

I met a friend, an Acehnese student studying in Bandung, West Java. I knew him from some training we did for student leaders. I told him about the three corpses in my destroyed house, and mentioned that I am very disturbed with the fact that they are still there three weeks after the tsunami hit. I had asked the Indonesian Red Cross team to evacuate the corpses, but they have been too busy to respond to individual requests.

It just so happened that this friend is coordinating a corpse evacuation team from Bandung, Bogor, and Jakarta. He called his team and asked whether they might help “my brother.” In Aceh, you call somebody a brother/sister even he/she is not actually your brother/sister as a sign of respect. They promised to help.

8:45am. We picked up an evacuation team of eight members at their station.

Around 9:30am. We were at our destroyed house and found that it had been further badly looted. The cupboard containing some clothes, cutlery, and a kitchen set belonging to my mother had been opened and gone through.

Our battered house was badly looted the third time I visited, this time for the purpose of evacuating the corpses.


I felt great relief after the three corpses in our house were, at last, evacuated.


One corpse was buried in the rubble, so I had to call my cousins to help move the debris in order for the evacuation team to remove the dead body. Only God knows whether there are more bodies underneath the rubble. The heavy equipment was yet to come to our neighborhood. They were still working in the bigger, main roads.

11:40am. One of my cousins found my missing sister’s purse with her ID card in it! Oh God….which one is her? The purse was found next to the corpse under the rubble, but not attached to it. Was it my sister’s dead body then? I forced my self to observe the corpse carefully. It is a woman wearing only underwear. Because of the decay, her face was difficult to recognize, but three of her fingers had rings on them. One ring on the left hand, and two rings on the right. I called my surviving sister in Jakarta and ask about the rings. She was sure that our missing sister only had one ring on one of her fingers. So this is not our sister? And again my surviving sister said that our missing brother and sister had run out of our house when the wave hit. My sister might have left the purse behind before she ran. Only God knows.


My sister’s purse with ID card and her employment registration card. Mahyunita, 26, took a state employment exam to be a teacher at a high school in East Aceh two weeks before the tsunami.

I have also tried to search for my missing sister and brother as well as my brother-in-law and niece at some IDP camps, but without success. The hardest question is when and where to stop searching. On the one hand, I feel that a lot more energy is required to help the survivors, but on the other hand is it too selfish to concentrate more on trying to find your missing loved ones? Does the victim or survivor come first?

I resolved to continue to work for both along different levels of priority during the time I will stay in Banda Aceh. The first week, I will pay more attention to my family and relatives without ignoring my broader obligation to the society. But eventually I will have to refocus so I can dedicate more time to serving my society.

1:30pm. After lunch, I went to Syiah Kuala University campus in Darussalam. My intention was to help bring the university flag to some roles I could play but this wasn’t much appreciated. I do not mean that I am frustrated and will give up on my university. I will help the university to the best of my abilities. Still, I wish…

Around 5:30pm. Some of my friends and I reconvened at PCC to exchange our own day’s experiences. Everybody was sad to hear about our university’s slow and bureaucratic response.

8:05pm. We started to brainstorm on the kind of emergency education that PCC, Phi-Beta, and our network would like to help with. Our four main conclusions were:

  1. Help the existing “emergency schools” at IDP shelters.
  2. Start and develop our own initiatives for emergency schools at shelters without ones yet.
  3. In the medium term, clean and renovate the Phi-Beta learning center so we can utilize it as a Free Tutorial and Counseling Center.
  4. In the long term, we want to establish a new boarding school to teach life skills for orphans.

¬[01/23/05] [01/25/05]®