1. Knowledge is the key
When I read the story of Tilly Smith and the people of Simeulue island, Indonesia, it confirmed that knowledge is the key. They are survived because of their knowledge on what to do when tsunami happens.
Tilly, a 10 years old British kid saved about hundred of people in Phuket, Thailand, by remembering her class discussion on earthquake and tsunami just before the Christmas vacation. In stead of running to the sea when the sea level subsided like lots of the tsunami victims did, she urged people to retreat to a higher ground.
The same thing happened in Simeulue which located only 40km from the epicenter of the earthquake on Dec. 26th 2004. The people of Simeulue remembered folktale about tsunami in the area decades ago, they ran to a higher ground as soon as there was an earthquake, as the result of it, only a handful people died. Compared this story with those in Banda Aceh and Meulaboh where a lot of people running toward the sea to collect those fishes or to admire the scenery which led to thousands of dead.
It is sad to admit that in a country that lies on the 'ring of fire' such as Indonesia, there were no public training/drilling what so ever that have anything to do with any catastrophes. Sure tsunami is mentioned in, I believe, elementary and middle school's geography books, but there are no drills. Not even a fire drill for that matter. I hope in the future more will be done to prepare the mass during a calamity.
2. Show me the money
Yes, it's wonderful to see that the whole world united to help the victims of Asian tsunami. People and government are pledging money, so far more than $1billion and $4billion respectively. But there's a catch. Not all pledges materialized. It happened time and again after big disasters. Some just simply didn't deliver what they promised. Some diverted the money from, for example, existing loans, or other emergencies.
In the Bam, Iran disaster, out of $1.1billion pledged by both governments and organizations only $17.5million had been materialized. After hurricane Mitch disaster in Latin America in 1998, out of $3.5billion promised by foreign governments and $5.2billion by international organizations only less than one third had been sent. Similar scenario happened in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and other countries hit by disasters.
Based on these incidents, UN asked governments and organizations to keep their promises. They need to show the world 'the money'. So, those of you out there who pledged to donate something, please keep your promise and donate what you pledged.
3. Where all the money goes
The other night there was this discussion on Belgium TV about donations. It was said that organizations such as OXFAM takes about 5% of the donation to cover their administration expenses while other organizations usually take about 10 to 15%. I found it quite fair, after all those expenses had to be paid somehow and they (and their people) did all the works.
However, I'm not sure about paying the salaries of foreign consultants who are hired by reconstruction projects like the ones of World Bank. Usually their salaries are paid by the money we got from World Bank Loans, so in fact, we are screwed twice. After the tsunami destroyed everything, we got loan that we have to pay back with interest. Then we have to paid foreigners more than we paid our people to give us consultation.
Then there is this problem about donors didn't keep their promised as I mentioned earlier.
On other occasion, there was this guy from a charity organization on Dutch TV who said there were times when he had no other choice but to pay some corrupt individuals in order to get the aid to the victims! I've heard similar stories from people back home, on how some people are using this calamity for their own gain, by asking for a bribe, or selling donated things. My gosh, how low can you go?
There are also some problems with logistic, for example in the case of Bam, Iran; they sent summer tents instead of Winter tents that is/was needed. There were cases of shipments of expired medicines to calamities locations before, all of which costs time and money.
So I wonder how much money ended up by those who needed.
4. The line between giving assistance and taking advantage is blurring
World Help, a US based Christian charity, planned to spread their evangelistic work in Indonesia by relocating Acehnese orphans mostly, if it's not all of 300 of them, are Moslem, to Christian orphanage near Jakarta. Their old website stated: "We do not want to just distribute help and leave. We are committed to bring help and hope to these children. We want them to know that Jesus loves them and plant Christian principles as early as possible in their age. To accomplish this means long-term commitment." The acts confirmed what had feared by Moslem that some missionary group would exploit the tragedy and tries to convert people.
The group's president Reverend Brewer is quoted saying, "It's no different than what Mother Teresa did by taking Hindu orphan children and placing them in a Roman Catholic children's home in [Calcutta], and she won the Nobel Peace Prize for doing that." Well, it IS different than what Mother Teresa did, she helped people. Period. Unlike World Help, She didn't help people in exchange for something else. In fact she said:
There is only one God and He is God to all;
therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God.
I've always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu,
a Muslim become a better Muslim,
a Catholic become a better Catholic.
Now, in World Help’s new site it is said: ‘Since we are unable to assist the children in Indonesia whom we had originally hoped to help, we will also be identifying children in other countries who have been orphaned and need immediate assistance.’
Isn’t it strange? I mean if you just want to help for the sake of helping, you can still help those children; Just don’t ask them to convert, you are not helping anyone by doing that, you just make things more difficult for those who are there to help.
Thinking of this, I can't help but wondering the ulterior motives of the people who said they want to help.
Does the USA help us because they can, or are they trying to send out better image across Moslem world?
Does Saudi Arabia help us because they can, or because they didn't want to be called stingy and doesn't care about their Moslem brothers in Aceh or their helps' families in Srilanka, Bangladesh or Thailand?
Does Front Pembela Islam help Aceh because they can, or are they trying to sell softer image?