Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Oct 01st
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Home Our Founder hot topic Aceh Five Years Later - Great Love Village III, Meulaboh

Aceh Five Years Later - Great Love Village III, Meulaboh

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Article Index
Aceh Five Years Later
Great Love Village I, Panteriek
Great Love Village II, Neuheun
Great Love Village III, Meulaboh
The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 in a Nutshell
All Pages

Great Love Village III, Meulaboh
Amiruddin, 32, moved into Great Love Village III in Meulaboh in September 2007.

On the day the tsunami struck, his wife, Lili Saryani, and her mother took Debi, the couple’s daughter, out for breakfast. It was Debi’s first birthday. The tsunami waves rolled in while they were eating. Fortunately, everyone survived and were later reunited in a tent city.

Though their lives had been spared, the disaster took everything else away from them. They were left with the clothes on their backs, a little bag of Debi’s, and a few photos of their wedding that they managed to salvage from the ruins of their house.

"I was heartbroken,” said Amiruddin. “But when I saw that everyone around me seemed to have suffered equally, I was better able to accept the disaster as a test from Allah.”

As soon as they heard that Tzu Chi was going to build permanent housing for tsunami victims, they signed up. After living in the tent city for 18 months, Amiruddin and his family moved into the village. “It is a great relief to not need to pay rent every month. It helps our family a lot,” Lili observed.

However, Allah’s test for this family was not limited to the tsunami. About six months after they had moved into the village, Amiruddin touched a live electrical wire while doing some masonry work. He was injured so badly that both arms had to be amputated just below the elbows. Two major setbacks in such a short time almost took away all his strength to live. He wondered if this was really a test from Allah.

Tzu Chi came to Amiruddin’s aid once more. With the foundation’s help, Amiruddin was fitted with prostheses. He learned to put them on, take them off, and control the fingers with muscles on his back. “With the prostheses I feel more confident, and I’m no longer too shy to get out of the house,” he said.

Amiruddin is still quite capable of handling many everyday tasks, even without the prostheses. He uses a corner of their home to sell groceries. Debi’s little friends buy things from him from time to time. With his mouth, teeth, and his bare arms, he easily uses a pair of scissors to cut large snack packages into individual packs for retail sale. He writes with a pen in his mouth, and he can fetch water from the well, one bucket after another.

While her husband tends the grocery store, Lili makes and sells pastries. She gets up early each morning and gets ready for the day. At 6:30, with Debi tagging along, Lili pushes a cart of pastries out of the house. She drops Debi off at the kindergarten at 7:30. She peddles pastries at the school entrance or in the village until 3:30. Then she heads home to make more pastries for the next day. Her day doesn’t end until after nine.

The snacks Lili sells are very popular with the villagers. She nets about 40,000 rupiahs (US$4.30) on a good day. Together, the couple earns about 900,000 rupiahs (US$97) a month, placing them squarely in the middle class as far as the residents of the village are concerned. “I can’t thank Allah enough, and I have no complaints at all,” said Amiruddin of the dramatic changes and challenges of the last five years.

Meulaboh was among the first cities hit by the tsunami. Almost all the dwellings along its coast were destroyed. Following the disaster, non-governmental organizations rushed in and built between 4,000 and 5,000 units of permanent housing. Although the United Nations had suggested that new units be built at least 500 meters (0.31 mile) inland, some NGOs caved in to residents’ wishes to rebuild where their destroyed houses had once stood.

Tzu Chi volunteer Chen Jin-fu (陳金福) took us to Ujung Kalak to see the consequences of such actions. “The houses here were built in the same place as the homes destroyed in the tsunami. But the new houses were destroyed again in 2007 by mountains of drifting sand,” Chen said. “The residents turned to Tzu Chi for help.” Great Love Village III, safely located three kilometers (1.8 miles) from the sea and just six kilometers (3.6 miles) from the town center, took in some of the victims who had lost their homes for the second time.

The last phase of Village III was completed in 2009, and the final batch of residents moved in. The three on-site schools (kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools) were also inaugurated, just in time to welcome “tsunami babies” to the daycare and kindergarten.

The majority of the village residents make their living as fishermen, laborers, or farmers. They are mostly poor. Eighty percent of the families have an average monthly household income of less than a million rupiahs (US$107). Their poverty made them especially grateful to Tzu Chi for building houses and schools for them.

On the day we visited, sunlight sparkled on one blue roof after another. The walls of the houses, originally white, had been painted orange, green, or yellow, making the village more colorful. As we walked the grounds, prayers drifted from a mosque.

The great tsunami brought unprecedented destruction and rewrote the lives of so many people. However, when there is suffering, there are always kind-hearted people willing to reach out to help. Let us hope that there will be no more disasters in the land of Aceh, and that its people will know no more sorrow.


" A person with a generous heart and compassion for all beings leads the most blessed life. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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