Thank You for My School


When you ask 12-year-old Zaharatunisa where she is from, she hesitates and looks at her mother. Her mother smiles, and shrugs: “We’ve told her the name of our village, but it doesn’t mean anything to her. She doesn’t remember. To her, we are from here, from Saree, from this house.”

Zaharatunisa was just 18 months old when the tsunami crashed into her village a calm Sunday morning in December, 2004. She doesn’t remember the water, or that her mother almost lost her grip as she carried her and tried to hold the hands of her two other children as they ran from the wave. Or that all that remained of their village were the foundations of houses, stripped bare.


What Zaharatunisa knows is her village in Saree, a community built from the ground up by CARE to resettle families whose houses and land were washed away in the tsunami.


Her new home revolves around her school, built by CARE. It is a long, one-storey building at the top of the hill, overlooking the neat rows of houses below. When the school first opened, there were just three teachers, and 54 students. Over the years, the new community and school have grown, and today, there are 10 teachers, and 72 students. The classes are small, with just 12 children each.


Now in the sixth grade at the school, Zaharatunisa is an outspoken, bright-eyed girl who looks forward to graduating and going to junior high next year.


“I want to say thank you to the people in the whole wide world because they helped us when there was a tsunami,” Zaharatunisa said, smiling shyly. “Thank you for our school.”


In the classroom, bright drawings from the children decorate the walls, and the students giggle and clap as they sing songs for the visitors. The students are all 12 and younger – part of a new generation of children growing up with no memory of the tsunami, no knowledge of a world except the safety and comfort that they know now.


“The tsunami was in the past. The children don’t remember it at all. It’s better that way,” said Rosmiati, Zaharatunisa’s mother. “Today, we are thinking of the future. Now we are focused on raising our children so they have a better life.”

Written by Melanie Brooks