10 Years After the Tsunami, There is Sadness, but There is Also Happiness


Ernawati, 51, lost everything when the tsunami hit Aceh Dec. 26, 2004. Today, she runs a successful shop. She tells her story.

There are many sad things from the tsunami, but there are happy things also. I’m very happy now. Let me tell you some of the happy things. But I have to tell you the sad part first, so you understand.

When the tsunami hit, I was in my house. It was Sunday. We used to go for a walk on Sundays. But that day, we were all in the house: my husband and our three children. Then the earthquake hit. We ran outside. Everything crashed to the floor. We thought it was just an earthquake. Then my daughter went to the market, but she came running back and yelled ‘Mom! The sea water is rising!’ So we all ran. The children were big enough to run for themselves, so we ran. We stayed in the hills for two days, and one night. When I came down, I saw so many dead people on the ground. We couldn’t even see where our house had been. I was very sad, but on the other hand, all my family has survived.

After the tsunami, we lived in the barracks. It was hard. We had no money.

You have to understand, we didn’t have anything then. Just the clothes we were wearing. When we wanted to store food, we had to put it in cardboard boxes! We got bitten by mosquitoes. We were cold at night. Then we got family survival kits from CARE, full of things we needed… mosquito nets, blankets, food… it was amazing. And the plastic bins are very useful containers! I still use the cooking pan, the knife, the cups… you can see, they are good quality.

Before the tsunami, I had never run a kiosk (small shop). After the tsunami, there were no kiosks left. So I decided to try. I was the first one in my barracks to open a kiosk. I started with just a few items: coffee, drinks, snacks. I had many customers.

The head of the barracks came to me and said that CARE was looking for entrepreneurs and that I should put together a proposal. I was so happy when I heard I could expand my business. I put together a proposal, telling them what I needed to start a business: plywood, supplies. CARE gave me the wood and stocks to build a kiosk (soap, coffee, drinks etc.). So I expanded my kiosk in the barracks.

In 2009, when the barracks closed, I moved outside the barracks. I used my profits to build a bigger building for my kiosk. People from the neighbourhood, people walking by, all come to my shop. There were still people in this neighbourhood, so I decided to keep my shop here. Sometimes I make 100,000-300,000IDR ($10-$30US) a day in profit. It’s a good business. I will keep this kiosk as it is, but I plan to increase the selection.

I also got money for a house in 2006, through CARE’s cash voucher system. With the profits from my kiosk, we made the house bigger, and we bought furniture. All this is from my kiosk. I’m even helping pay for my son go to college.

Even before the tsunami, I wished I could make a business like this. My dreams came to reality after the tsunami.

Thank you to the world for helping us. I pray that peace and prosperity will last a long time here, and in the rest of the world. Here, we had conflict, and a major disaster, and the world helped us, and the conflict ended. I wish other places would have the same. This was only possible because the conflict ended.

It’s extraordinary, the change now. Buildings are everywhere. You see by yourself, the roads are built. So there is sadness, and we will never forget the tsunami. But life goes on. There is more happiness now than sadness.