IOCC Aid to South Asia Focusing on Long-Term Recovery

Novitasari looks over crayons that are part of a school kit distributed by IOCC and its partners in the Action by Churches Together (ACT) network to children in families forced from their Indonesia homes by the tsunami. IOCC has distributed thousands of “Gift of the Heart” school kits and health kits, many of them assembled by Orthodox Christians, to some of the hardest-hit victims of the tsunami. Photo by Emily Will, Mennonite Central Committee-ACT International

Jakarta, Indonesia (May 19, 2005) — The group of Indonesian men and women, mostly young people, gathered in the large hotel meeting room here to learn about counseling survivors of the South Asia tsunami.

There was only one catch — many of these psychology students and mental health professionals were themselves tsunami survivors. They had lost family members, friends, fellow students and colleagues in the tsunami — and they also would need grief and trauma counseling.

As part of its ongoing tsunami response, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is supporting efforts such as these to train professionals in trauma counseling techniques and to provide counseling to tsunami victims.

As the seminar participants told their stories, it was clear that they carried with them an unbearable sadness, coupled with a fierce determination to help friends, relatives and others who had suffered trauma and loss.

One woman, a grandmother and Indonesian relief worker for one of IOCC’s partners, said she was in Jakarta when she heard the news on Dec. 26, 2004. She rushed to Banda Aceh only to learn that more than 50 members of her extended family — cousins, grandchildren, nieces and nephews — had perished in the tsunami.

She reminded the group of the need to care for themselves and one another as they gave counseling to others in the months ahead.

About half of the $1.3 million raised for IOCC’s tsunami relief efforts has been committed to provide assistance in the form of counseling services, medical supplies, fresh foodstuffs, temporary shelter, multi-vitamins, clean drinking water, personal hygiene items and schools supplies.

The remaining funds are being allocated for ongoing relief and long-term recovery efforts focused on activities that generate employment and help people to recover their livelihoods.

Through staff posted in Medan, IOCC is working with the local Orthodox Church and ecumenical partners such as Church World Service, and Action by Churches Together.

In Indonesia, IOCC continues to distribute fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items to displaced people living in temporary camps and private homes in North Sumatera Utara and East Aceh, and to provide school kits to affected children and schools in Sumatera Utara.

In Sri Lanka, IOCC recently shipped more than $225,000 in liquid multi-vitamins (424,000 daily adult doses) for distribution to tsunami survivors.

IOCC also is supporting efforts to provide livelihood recovery, medical assistance, emergency shelter, and counseling to mostly women, children and the elderly in Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar, Aceh Barat and Nagan Raya, and relief supplies to Nias Island.

Founded in 1992, IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).