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Dancers perform at a ceremony marking the construction of 150 houses in Ulee Tuy, Indonesia, for survivors of the 2004 tsunami. Dwi Budiarto

Dancers perform at a ceremony marking the construction of 150 houses in Ulee Tuy, Indonesia, for survivors of the 2004 tsunami. Dwi Budiarto

MCC completes Indonesia tsunami response

Tim Shenk
July 9, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – In the village of Ulee Tuy, Indonesia, 150 families who lost their homes in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami are celebrating the completion of their new houses, which Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) helped build as a final project in its tsunami response.

The families prepared a feast, performed dances and hosted government officials during a hand-over ceremony in Ulee Tuy on June 24.

"It was really a very special time," said Jeff Yoder, an MCC tsunami response coordinator. "People were excited about seeing the housing."

In early July, MCC closed its office in Indonesia's Aceh province after providing nearly $10 million in relief and recovery assistance in Aceh following the tsunami. MCC's tsunami response programs in India and Sri Lanka are also nearing completion.

While MCC continues to work in other parts of Indonesia, Jeff Yoder and his wife Laura Yoder, who taught university social science courses, are finishing their MCC assignments in Aceh.

Jeff Yoder said he has observed many changes in Aceh since he arrived in 2005. In the months following the tsunami, Yoder's Indonesian friends and colleagues reflected on their personal losses in the disaster, which claimed 170,000 lives in Aceh alone. One man cried as he told Yoder about the loss of his son, a junior high school student, who disappeared in the tsunami, leaving only his shirt as a trace.

The tsunami left hundreds of thousands of people without homes. More than half of MCC's funds in Aceh went to reconstruction projects, including 623 houses, 22 small bridges, one junior high school and numerous drainage canals and levees. In addition, MCC supported a wide variety of projects in relief, public health, education, job creation, trauma healing and peace-building.

The Canadian International Development Agency provided funds to support the Ulee Tuy house construction project, and John Holmes, the Canadian ambassador to Indonesia, attended the hand-over ceremony. MCC also worked with GenAssist, a program of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, to carry out the construction of the houses.

The 150 families who received houses in Ulee Tuy had been renters when the tsunami struck, and they became homeowners through the project, Yoder said.

Yoder said that the physical reconstruction of Aceh has been one of the most dramatic changes over the last three years – a credit to the work of many people in Aceh and the support of organizations such as MCC.

"It's exciting to see all the things that have happened," Yoder said. "Now, if you drive around Aceh, it's almost difficult to tell that there was a tsunami."