Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Some Months After Aceh…

I have a promise that I haven’t fulfilled. I promised to write more about my life, and the inspirations I found as I worked in post-tsunami Aceh, Indonesia. Yet when there are just too many stories to tell, added with procrastination in the name of that cliché ‘too-tired-after-work’ excuses, the stories remains stored my mental memory instead of in my laptop’s.
My life progresses so fast. Somehow I am overwhelmed by its speed (yet I really enjoy it :)), and along the way, I have more stories to record, and to tell. So, some months after I left Aceh, I landed in a new organization. Decided to be faithful to my profession as a disaster management as well as a communication practitioner, I chose to join the ASEAN* Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management. It is known by its shortened name, the AHA Centre, in which AHA stands for the ‘ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance’. So here I am now, expanding my working area from the northern tip of Sumatra Island to thousands other islands across ten countries in Southeast Asia.

Only in my first week after joining the Centre, a super typhoon hit the island of Mindanao in the Philippines on December 4, 2012. More than a thousand lives were taken, almost another thousand were missing as the mudslide swept New Bataan, a municipality in the province of Compostela Valley (also known as ComVal). Damages and loss were widely spread over 8 provinces with Davao Oriental and Compostella Valley as the most severely affected provinces. More than eight hundred thousand people were displaced, as more than two hundred thousand houses are damaged (UNOCHA Humanitarian Bulletin Issue 14, 2013). 

Royal Malaysia Air Force (RMAF) officers securing the load of relief items for the Philipines at the RMAF Base in Subang, Malaysia, December 7, 2012

On the day when the typhoon swept the island, I and some colleagues were in our hectic days of preparing for the launching of the Disaster Emergency Logistics System in Subang, Malaysia. The logistics system will help a quick mobilization of emergency relief items during disaster emergency response. 

The snowball of goodwill and responses just rolled right. An hour after the launching event, the Malaysian Government sent their first batch of aid to the Philippines. I remembered standing there at the Royal Malaysian Air Force Base with a C-130 airplane loaded with aid. It was December 7, 2012, midday. Tens of journalists we have just spoken to in our press conference excitedly taped their reports, in and outside of the plane. I stood under the heat, feeling happy that I made my first international press conference abroad.

I felt splashes of excitement – like the feeling I felt when I first landed in Aceh, when I first drove in the white Land Rover marked with a big, blue UN that stands for United Nations - sign for my first mission, like when I first saw an UNHAS** airplane and took off with it to the island of Nias, way back then in my younger days. I smiled. That afternoon, seeing the plane took off with relief items, I knew I have made the right choice: moving to a right place and living my dream career.

Journalists and resource persons at work. It was the first press conference I arranged for the AHA Centre, and the first press event that I arranged outside of Indonesia. Happy to see the many journalists there. :)
Another taping session that day happened in our warehouse. This is NHK team at work.
There is something about the passion that feels sweet and intoxicating. It feels so fulfilling when we know that we are doing the thing that we believe is good and right.  
And here, in my current work environment, I met many more inspiring persons, collected more inspiring stories, as some days after my mission to Malaysia, I was sent to the Philippines for Typhoon Bopha Operation.I should really make a serious come back to writing, because those are the stories that are too good to keep. I should share them. :)

*ASEAN: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations
**UNHAS: United Nations Humanitarian Air Service

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