Amid tsunamis’ destruction volunteering spirit spreads
04 February 2005
Bonn, Germany: Vera Yuliana signed on as a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) in early January to help the residents of Banda Aceh, a city in Indonesia’s Aceh province, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunamis.
One month later, this UN Volunteer from Indonesia continues to provide essential relief support in a region where the latest figures put the death toll at 100,000.
Since her arrival in the community, Vera has been engaged in many activities, from sharing vital information among UN organizations and other aid agencies to assisting the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in locating suitable areas to build tents for the displaced. She is now helping coordinate other volunteers – mainly internally displaced persons – to clear debris and clean hospitals and schools. She is amazed at the volunteers’ work, despite their mental and physical trauma.
Working with Vera to ensure the volunteers and the organizations are able to cope with the enormous work at hand is Spanish UN Volunteer Cristina Herrero. Together with staff from UNDP and other international agencies, both have organized ‘on-the-job’ trainings for many hundreds of volunteers. Most recently, they teamed up with Australian engineers to train volunteers in the necessary skills to safely unclog sewages and drains. Cristina estimates the number of the displaced people who are volunteering to grow from 300 to well over 900.
Indonesian UN Volunteer Yulius Sutrisno recently completed the training of 47 volunteer facilitators to help the displaced in temporary camps. The facilitators will stay with the displaced people to address their immediate needs such as food, clean water, and sanitation. They will also serve as a direct line to help donors in the coordination and distribution of relief.
Since the tsunamis struck on 26 December 2004, the UNV programme continues to expand its presence in the affected countries. A number of countries, such as Japan, Germany, and most recently the Czech Republic, have responded to UNV’s appeal for donor assistance, making it possible to increase its support to India, Indonesia, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. To date, some 40 UNVs are in these countries.
Supporting the intermediate and long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts, UNV is mobilizing additional volunteers to serve in some of the most affected communities for initial six to 12-month assignments. The UN Volunteers will work with several other UN agencies to provide technical expertise in the reconstruction of infrastructure, skill trainings in restoring livelihoods, and building local capacity of communities in disaster preparedness and response.