By Christina Grawe, Caritas Communications Officer
Little Mitra waits in her village of Sikabu Bukit. All the houses here were destroyed by a quake on the 30 September. Her home and her school were destroyed. She waits for the Caritas trucks to arrive with tents for her and her family. Her mother says, “Today our new house will arrive.”
“We were outside the house“ said Mitra. The rain had just started she says, and the children were playing a game called Hujan hujanan that roughly translates as running around in the rain. This is the reason the children survived. When the quake hit and the houses collapsed, in a deadly mass of concrete, wood, and metal, the children were outside playing. Only three persons died in Sikabu Bukit.
None of the survivors has a home. “We all sleep outside now,” said Mitra. At night, the rain forest is cold. “We are freezing, because we cannot close a door, we have no door anymore,” she said.
Around noon, the trucks pull in to the earthquake-hit village. All of a sudden, things become very busy. Some Indonesian volunteers have come to help along with students from a church group in Padang and workers from Caritas Indonesia (known locally as Karina). A table is organised immediately. Little cards with numbers already written on are spread out. All the people try to get to the table frantically, but the mayor tries to calm everyone down.
Mitra´s father is called from the list. He has to show his identity card and sign that he received a tent. An ink pad is on the table for those who are not able to write. Mitra´s father puts his thumb on the pad and then on the list. He packs the tent on his old bicycle. With trouble he pushes it through the forest to where his house was standing once. In front of the debris the family has put the few items, they could pull out.
The waterproof tent is a protection against the weather and also a little piece of privacy for the family. Mitra´s family consist of five people: her parents, an elder brother and the grandmother.
Mitra stays at the village centre. She thinks, it is too exciting, what is happening there. She gathers all her courage and asks me if she could touch her blond hair. She can. Her little girlfriends are giggling, But Mitra does not care.
The distribution takes a long time. One woman starts shouting, she thinks, they had forgotten her. They calm her. And one after the other, the families carry the tent-roll to their piece of land. Hammering can be heard out of the woods. The constriction manual has pictures so its easy to understand.
Soon after the first tents go up, directly next to the destroyed houses. They will be a temporary shelter, until the real house will be reconstructed. After 10 day sleeping outside, such a tent seems a luxury. Two women are sitting inside the new tent and eating rice. “Even the ground is waterproof!” they are shouting.
Mitra is nowhere to seen. As I walk past the family´s piece of land in the evening – after all the tents are distributed – I hear the little girls´ squealing from inside the tent.
“Yippee, we have got a new house,” the children are singing. Mitra is dancing with her friends in a circle and clapping her hands. This is then one of the moments when an aid worker knows that every effort, every sleepless night, every cut hand, and every penny donated have been worth it.