In Aceh, where the 2004 tsunami washed away homes and families, water can have many meanings. For Sukandawati, a 45-year-old midwife and mother of three, the giant wave of water 20 meters high took her youngest daughter the morning of Dec. 26, 2004. But today, water means life – for her remaining children, and for the crops that her husband tends near their house.
Just months before the tsunami, she and her husband decided to move back home to Banda Aceh to be closer to her family and raise their three small children. They had been living away for nearly 15 years, and thought it would be good to be close to family.
Six months later, the tsunami hit. More than 50 members of her family died – including her four-year-old daughter.
“We were carried away by the water. I lost hold of my daughter’s hand, and then I was swept under. I couldn’t see my children. I found two of them, but my daughter was gone. I never found her.” Sukandawati took a deep breath, and wiped her eyes.
“It has been a long time.”
Today, Sukandawati lives in Saree, where CARE has resettled families whose homes and land were washed away in the tsunami. CARE built a community from the ground up: houses, roads, a school, and a free water supply.
Sukandawati found a job at a nearby health center, and her husband began life again as a farmer, growing cocoa plants. In the front yard, tidy little bags of young plants grow, waiting to be transplanted into her field nearby.
“I never would have thought we would have all this,” she said, sweeping her hand across her room. “You can imagine – Banda Aceh was totally destroyed. My house was gone, everything was gone.
The water system, built with funds from Aktion Deutschland Hilft, pipes water from mountain springs into the CARE-built homes and school. It has been more than eight years since the system was built, but it is still running smoothly, said Sukandawati.
“There has never been a problem with the water supply from the very beginning until now. The water is very good, clean, and clear,” she said. “With all the work in the past 10 years to rebuild what the tsunami took, having clean water was one less worry. I knew my children would be healthy because we have clean water.”
The community works together to maintain and repair the water system. If there are repairs needed, every family contributes to make the repairs – as little as $2US per family, a fraction of the cost of a monthly municipal water supply bill.
And in Saree, the poorer families in the community don’t have to pay for the repairs; their neighbors contribute more to help them.
“There has been amazing change since the tsunami, but now we must think about the poorer people living here, and help them to advance also and get a better life. So when we can help others, like paying for their water repairs, of course we will. The world helped us after the tsunami, and now we help each other.”
Written by Melanie Brooks