Always Remember Calang
Floyd Cowan visited Calang in Aceh one year after the tsunami wreaked havoc on the small fishing village where he saw how a medical clinic set up and funded by Rolls-Royce and HSBC has helped the people as they struggle to recover..The rotor on the Russian military helicopter throbbed in a regular monotonous beat as we drifted down an idyllic coastline painted with white beaches, decorated with odd shaped islands of rocks and cliffs and solitary palms. Over the green undulating forest-clad mountains themorning sun sent gentle rays that glimmered golden off the sea.
This was perfect peace and beauty and unspoiled nature. But this is the paradise that nature spoiled. This is Aceh.
One year after the December 26, 2004 tsunami wreaked havoc on Sumatra the landscape remains scarred and the people deeply wounded.We had already seen Banda Aceh and we could still see the destruction the tsunami had wrought but we could not see all the damage it had done. With us on the Russian helicopter that was doing United Nations duty was a Muslim lady with a gentle round face that was as peaceful as the morning and as radiant as the rising sun.
Her eyes sparkled and her smile was warm. We were told she was a midwife and she worked in the clinic we were going to visit. Elly Safri Yati was one of the tsunami's victims. Elly had lived but she lost her three children. "I was holding two of my children when the wave hit," she said.
"I couldn't hold on to them, they disappeared and I never saw them again.We are all familiar with the horrible stories of the tragedy that happened that Boxing Day but we are not as familiar with the work that has been done since to repair at least some of the damage.around it, but it remains witness to what happenedIt was a 50-minute flight from Banda Aceh to Calang. We flew over that famous scene of the mosque still standing while all around it had been flattened and washed away.
There are now buildings sprouting up when that wave hit.As we drifted over the coast we could see stretches of the highway that had connected the small towns and fishing villages. We could also see that in many places there was no road. Stretches have been washed away by recent rains. The road had been repaired but what had once been a three or four hour drive became a 12 or 14 hour journey, and now it was not even possible to travel the entire length. Work has not yet been started on a new permanent road and the road from the south has never been repaired.
We landed on an overgrown soccer pitch near the beach. The entire length of the beach remained a scene of complete devastation. Not a single home had survived and nothing had been rebuilt. We knew there had been homes there, the concrete foundations and steps remained.
As well as debris from shattered homes and lives that were no more.It was because of Calang's isolation and because of the force with which the tsunami hit it that Dr Mike Gray, Regional Director for Rolls-Royce, working out of Jakarta, decided to help here. Soon after the disaster he met with Col Stuart Jarvis, British Diplomatic Attaché in Jakarta, Aji Sularso, with Indonesia's Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Richard McHowat CEO of HSBC. "We wanted to do something that would help the people right away," Dr Gray states.
"We wanted to do something that would become a focal point for the community. There were other projects that we could have done, but if you provide instant solutions it is not necessarily the best answer. This clinic is an entirely Indonesian solution.".It was obvious that long-term medical care would be needed as McHowat explains, ''The impact of the tsunami in Sumatra has been catastrophic.
Providing basic healthcare after the field hospitals have left Aceh remains a challenge since Aceh lost 10 percent of its 9,800 healthcare workers and towns along the west coast have lost 60 percent of their healthcare centres. For us," the CEO continued, "building this clinic represents a very innovative way to bridge the period between army field hospitals leaving Aceh and more permanent reconstruction of healthcare facilities in the future. We hope that this pilot project of an Indonesian built clinic will be the catalyst for more such clinics to be built.''.
It was not only that Calang was very badly hit ? prior to the tsunami over 40,000 people lived there, after the tsunami only 6,000 remained ? that the contributing partners, which includes Global Assistance and Health Care, decided to help this town. "Calang, because of its isolation, was one of the most difficult places to do something," Dr Gray states. "We thought that if we could do something here than we could help anywhere in Indonesia." With US$500,000 in cash donated by HSBC and its employees and with another half a million dollars in operational help, designing and co-ordinating the construction of the clinic, and maintenance coming from Rolls-Royce the clinic was built and began treating patients just nine weeks after construction started in March. The clinic now helps with the medical needs of between 50 to 100 people every day.The clinic was constructed on the Indonesian island of Batam.
Five 40ft containers were converted into a clinic to full medical standards along with accommodation for 12 medical staff. In addition to the medical facilities an administration and communication centre, dining and kitchen facilities, storage, an integral electricity generator unit, a water treatment plant, laundry and sanitation facilities were part of the package. It was all put together in Batam and taken by barge to Calang.
"We could not have done this without the help of the Indonesian marines," Dr Gray emphasis. "They got the containers off the barge and moved it to its location, which was no easy task. There was no harbour or docking facilities and four times the temporary landings they had made got washed away and they had to rebuild them.
"The on-the-ground co-ordinator for this project from Rolls-Royce is Sub Manager Bachtiar, who lived for two and half months in a tent while the clinic was being built. He has since occupied one of the staff rooms at the clinic. "I am like one of the local people now," he smiles. "It sometimes happens that at midnight someone comes and they need your help. You are able to help them and then you are very happy.
".One of the reasons this project could be done so quickly is because Rolls-Royce has been in the country for over 45 years and Dr Gray has been there for seven years. "We were able to do this because we know the framework here. We know all the players. I was able to go to the right people and get letters that helped us cut through all the red tape we might have faced.
Despite the success of this clinic the work in Calang, and all of Aceh, is far from finished. "Now that we have the plan we are building a second medical centre in Banda Aceh. The one in Calang cost $470,000 but the other one will come in at about $300,000 because we are using conventional materials," said Dr Gray, the overall project co-ordinator. "It was important that we created a model that could be applied elsewhere.
We estimate that up to 70 such clinics could be used along the coast and we hope that this pilot project will be the catalyst for more such facilities, both in Aceh and elsewhere in Indonesia."This project has brought together organisations with complementary skills and similar objectives," Dr Gray added. "Collectively we have overcome some of the world's most challenging terrain.
Global Assistance and Healthcare provides doctors and nursing staff until the project is handed over to the Ministry of Health. During this time they will train new primary healthcare staff for Aceh.Dr Gray has worked extremely hard to help the tsunami victims and he said it was a very gratifying moment when we arrived at the clinic and he saw all the shoes outside the door.
He knew that people were using the facility and that it had become a focal point for the community, which he had hoped it would be.Perhaps one of the most poignant moments of our tour was a meeting between Dr Gray, Mr Ralph Murphy, Director of International Affairs Rolls-Royce and Ir Zulfian Ahmad, Bupati of Aceh Jaya. The respect for each other was evident as they discussed the situation through an interpreter. Ir Zulfian Ahmad was obviously appreciative of what Rolls-Royce, and in particular Dr Gray, had done for his community but he was also compelled to press for more help. The economy of the village is not self sustaining and there is still extensive reconstruction to be done.Dr Gray, knowing that the Bupati had lost all of his family to the tsunami, obviously felt great compassion for him and the survivors but he also knows full-well the challenges of getting needed aid to the community.
"We will try to help you with other projects," Dr Gray promised. "When people want to do something, things get done. We will speak to our friends in Jakarta and we will urge them to continue with their assistance.
When I had walked down to the shipyard where men building fishing boats I was struck by how happy the people looked. They waved and smiled at me and if I didn't look up when they passed in their vehicle they would sound their horn to get my attention. I asked Ir Zulfian Ahmad what was the mental state of the people and his response brought the reality home, "After a year, they are getting a little bit better." Then he added, "We can lose everything, but we cannot lose our spirit.
We can only go up from here.How long will that take? Can one ever forget losing all your family or having your children swept from your arms?.Though facilities such as the medical clinic, which the people now refer to as the Rolls-Royce clinic, address their physical needs, it also helps the mental well-being of the residents.
Bachtiar related a story about an old man who was in a very bad state so he was brought to the clinic. "When the old man came here he was amazed at the clinic. He said, "This looks like a hospital." It revived his spirits and he said that it gave him the will to live again.
There is more to be done and Dr Gray put it succinctly to the Bupati, "When I came here 10 days ago you said to me "Remember Calang". What I say to you is, "Always Remember Calang.".Floyd Cowan.Editor in Chief
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