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Monday October 3, 2005

A new beginning in Aceh


These sheds have been homes to some 230 children orphaned by the tsunami since January this year. Built for 50 children, the miserable facilities are sorely inadequate for all the children.  

The destructive force of the earthquake and tsunami led to the total collapse of the local governing system in Aceh. Coming up with a blueprint for the stricken province was a huge challenge. 

Many coastal towns that were badly hit, such as Meulaboh and Calang, needed to be rebuilt further inland. But to relocate entire villages to different sites aggravated existing difficulties such as identifying land, land ownership and its original functions. 

Mercy Malaysia was swamped with appeals for help in January. Rather than biting off more than it could chew, the organisation decided to adopt Kampung Weu Raya to rebuild homes for the villagers who were living in miserable conditions in an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp. 

After approval was granted by Mercy’s executive council in January, sketches and plans were made to construct simple meranti wood and concrete houses. Each unit was originally designed to be 36sq m but was later expanded to 52sq m. 

In March, the surviving villagers each marked the plots of land where their houses used to be. Identifying actual boundaries was a difficult task. In April, the first sample house was built. 

Then a team of 30 skilled villagers and 180 construction workers from Medan immediately began work on the actual houses, building about one house a day. But discontentment arose among some of the villagers who wanted brick houses or different designs given by other NGOs. 

The seismic-resistant houses hid plenty of reinforcing steel beams behind their pastel yellow facades. The beams were built to reinforce both vertical and horizontal walls. Roofs were fitted with bracing to guard against the winds.  

The sample houses were put to the test in a simulated earthquake. 

“I’m happy to say that our houses are still standing strong!” says architect Norazam Abu Samah. 

A bird’s eye view of Kg Weu Raya in the Lhoknga district of Aceh, taken by Mercy Malaysia in early September.
Some RM3million was used from donated funds to build the village. 

As the village remained on its original site – about 20 minutes from the Banda Aceh city centre in the north-west coastal area – it needed a tsunami escape route. 

Easily identifiable signboards are placed around the village to guide the villagers towards the quickest paths to safer, higher grounds.  

Related Stories: 

Rebuilding homes and lives
Hope springing from misery
Moving on with life

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