21 January 2005
Searching for bodies with other rescue volunteers in Brunei.
(Source: Brunei Direct).Banda Aceh, Indonesia:
It has been almost a month since the tsunami disaster struck Banda Aceh and the humanitarian assistance from around the world including Brunei Darussalam is doing what it can in helping the survivors.
Among those who have lent a helping hand is a team of six volunteers from Datalish Adventure in Brunei who just returned home recently after spending a week witnessing the aftermath of the disaster. One of the Datalish Adventure volunteers, Uncle Jax, recounted his experience in Banda Aceh to the Borneo Bulletin.
The moment Uncle Jax arrived, the destruction he saw was beyond his imagination. Even after hearing the news and watching the pictures on TV before he arrived did not prepare him for what he had gone through the past week. As he walked around of Aceh, he realised what a natural disaster can do to the mankind. Never in his life did he ever imagine he would be playing a role in aiding the relief effort.
At Banda Aceh, Uncle Jax met thousands of volunteers from around the world to give their support to the tsunami survivors.
There were people who came on their own and some even sold their properties so that they could reach Aceh to assist the needy. What really touched his heart was his encounter with a man from Malaysia called Ahmad whose disabilities (he does not have hands) did not stop him from becoming a volunteer.
Before his departure to Aceh, Uncle Jax was told that the team may face difficulty trying to gain access to the tsunami affected areas; however, when they reached Aceh, they were able to enter the tsunami hit areas after he and his colleagues introduced themselves as non-government organisation volunteers from Brunei.
They didn't have to queue as the Customs and Immigration officers there gave priority to volunteer teams from Brunei.
He was also happy with the cooperation from local NGOs and other international organisations, offering to share food, accommodation and even transportation with the Brunei volunteers. The Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) and the Australian airforce offered to bring the volunteers to several affected areas.
During his days at Banda Aceh, Uncle Jax was moved to see numerous lives lost and survivors grieving over family members who did not survive the tragedy. He managed to talk to some survivors asking them about the tsunami and they described the waves as a big hand approaching them in full speed.
The Bruneian volunteer couldn't find words to describe his utmost sadness when he saw piles of corpses scattered in every direction he walked. Most of the bodies were left uncollected as there were not enough volunteers to carry and transport them to the burial grounds. The most unforgettable experience was when he packed the first body he found into a bag and carried it onto a truck. For the first time in his life, he knew that he was doing something right. When he carried the bodies, they felt unusually light.
Help is needed round the clock at the tsunami hit town. Every night when Uncle Jax was asleep, he could hear people asking for assistance.
Even though he stayed at Banda Aceh for only a week, Uncle Jax knew that he has made a difference to the lives of the many survivors he has helped and most importantly, his life was changed too.
Upon returning from Aceh, Uncle Jax feels that he has not contributed enough to the tsunami victims, so he and other volunteers are planning another trip there. This time, he will go to Aceh with individual volunteers who are going on their own expenses.
So far, he has received calls from six individuals who want to be volunteers, and some private companies here have also agreed to sponsor the trip.
Meanwhile, Uncle Jax advises those who are planning to become volunteers that they should be mentally and physically fit and at the same time should acquire some first aid and basic survival skills.
This is because when they arrive in Aceh, they are expected to help in any way they can.
He hopes the Brunei tsunami relief operation in Banda Aceh will continue throughout the year.