In the early morning of May 27, a major earthquake shook the central Java city of Yogyakarta and the surrounding area, claiming more than 5,800 lives and leaving many thousands homeless. For the next three days our Family International community collected aid and made preparations to join the on-site relief effort.
Six of us traveled to the area on May 31 and began meeting people and distributing the small part of the aid that we had been able to stuff into our van. The bulk of the aid we had collected arrived by truck after midnight, and we spent two hours unloading four tons of rice, sugar, oil, sardines, noodles, and other goods. After a few hours sleep, it was back to the villages we had surveyed the day before to distribute aid and start programs for the children. Nine more Family International volunteers joined us a few days later.
In the mornings we helped other volunteers dismantle the ruins of houses and clear rubble, and in the afternoons we provided trauma therapy for the children in the form of puppet shows, music, art projects, and other activities.
We organized two more trips to the earthquake-stricken areas of Yogyakarta and central Java. The first team brought a truckload of food and clothing and provided educational activities for the children.
The latest trip was different from previous ones, having a two-fold purpose: helping the earthquake victims and providing on-the-job training for teen volunteers. Our team of 16 worked for eight days in the Bantul area, where the teens learned to organize disaster relief, had more exposure to Indonesian culture and the local language, and sharpened their teamworking skills. During our stay we helped clean up debris from houses that had been destroyed and continued with programs and activities for the children. We worked with other local student volunteers in the area and also provided comfort and encouragement to those affected by the earthquake.
Originally Published in 2006.