We were in Banda Aceh, in Apr/May 2010, for 3 weeks.
I’m sure that all of you remember Banda Aceh. In December 2004, this city of North Sumatra, in Indonesia, was hit by the tsunami, and hundred thousands of people were killed or missing.
Our goal during this travel, was to see, and report, how is the city, 5 years after having being destroyed by the tsunami; and of course, volunteering, as there are still a lot of nonprofit organizations which are working there.
Banda Aceh looks good today, and people are just… living their life. Some places, or symbols, touched by the tsunami, are preserved for tourism, and the city built a brand new tsunami museum, designed by famous Indonesian architect Ridwan Kamil.
So, at a quick glance, everything looks good here. But, when you dig further, you will see that a lot of problems are still exist.
That’s why, as we love to help, we wanted to volunteer here.
But volunteering is never an easy task… big organizations, from foreign countries, have their rules, and the ones who work there, don’t want to be disturbed during their “days” spend at the beach and finished at some “underground” bars where they can drink some beers. So we ended up, as what we love, to volunteer for small local NGOs.
Usually, based on my experience in several countries, local NGOs are lack of funding, but they seriously do the ground work. Big International NGOs have the money… but, often, the fund is spent more on big 4×4 trucks, big offices (for the rental), and incomes of personnel who spend (usually, not all) more time on the beach and bars, than really helping locals, leaving the job to local little NGOs, which have no fund, but really do good jobs. However usually nobody say anything, because before leaving the place, big NGOs (trying to show off and look nice), offer the vehicles, or computers, to local NGOs. Nice gifts, but usually, computers are old and full of virus, so they prefer to give away cars; it’s more visible, as they “marked” on each side of the car with the words “donated by…”
For all these reasons, we always like to volunteer for small local NGOs, publish their names and contact info. If ever you want to donate, honestly, choose small local NGOs, than a big international one, your money will be used in a better way, and will really help the local people.
The one which touch me the most was a school, near the Banda Aceh Airport. It is a school for disabled children. I was there to take photos of them, because the organization which takes care of them wanted to set up a website fo fund raising, and they needed photos.
Norman, the Director of this organization, really takes good care of the kids. He visits them at least once a week to talk with them, play with them, have interactions with them… I could strongly feel his love towards the kids…
Norman just finished his university from medical school. However, he is not interested to be a doctor. His passion is to take care of these kids. I spent quite some time with him, and he is a guy with a big heart.
The kids in the school were awesome. I love them. They are very motivated to learn a lot of things despite of their handicap, especially playing music. If you could have a chance to meet them, I’m sure you will be amazed, just like me.
I will remember them all my life.
Apart from this, I also gave photography classes to the Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Center, as part of my volunteering. I had about 10 students, for 2 days. First day to explain some photography techniques, and the next day about post processing.
For another organization, Nusantara Indah, we took photos of counseling session for their new website. The goal of this NGO is to give free training classes to counselors in school, so that they can guide the young to develop their life.
Volunteering in Banda Aceh was a nice experience. People are very friendly, and we could make good friends too.
Beside volunteering, we also took some nice photos such as the wonderful Raya Baiturrahman Mosque.