Emergency CARE Packages, 10 Years Later


I couldn’t believe it. Ten years after the tsunami, the emergency CARE packages we distributed are still being used.

When I thought of asking people if they still had any of the emergency supplies they received from aid agencies like CARE, I figured it was a long shot. But when I mentioned it to Ernawati, a shop-owner who received a house from CARE, her eyes lit up. With a wide smile, she opened a bedroom door to reveal two slightly battered plastic bins, now being used for storage. A peeling CARE sticker on the side reads ‘Family Survival Kit’.

CARE distributed thousands of these after the tsunami, along with food, safe water, hygiene kits and other emergency supplies to more than 350,000 people affected by the tsunami. The kits, an emergency CARE Package for people who lost everything in the tsunami, consisted of three large plastic bins with lids, filled with the basics a family would need to survive: blankets, mosquito nets, pots and pans, cups and plates, kitchen utensils and more.

“You have to understand, we didn’t have anything then. Just the clothes we were wearing,” said Ernawati, whose house was destroyed in the tsunami. Until their new house was built, they lived in one of the sparse wooden barracks hastily constructed to house the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless.

“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!”

Ernawati walks into the kitchen and picks up a well-used pan and knife, holds them up triumphantly and says “Here! These were from CARE.” She walks through her kitchen, pointing out items that came from CARE. “And these cups, and these plates...”

Her neighbour, Radiah, laughs and says “Every house on this street, it is the same. I use the bins to store clothes, and we still use all the cups and pans. The knife was particularly good quality.”

But surely they must have bought new kitchen supplies or blankets in the past 10 years, I said. What did they do with the old ones?

“We shared them with other people who needed them,” said Ernawati simply.

She paused, then the two women smiled at the same time. “And we use the extra cups at weddings.”

Written by Melanie Brooks