When the tsunami struck southeast Asia on December 26, 2004, Canadian churches responded with unprecedented generosity.

photo credit: Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance

Relief to Rehabilitation After the Tsunami

Communities in South East Asia were devastated by an unprecedented tsunami on December 26, 2004, which killed over 230,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of people struggling to rebuild their lives from scratch. Canadian church partners in the region mobilized quickly to provide food and shelter, and distributed relief items to support the survivors, helping communities begin the long process of rebuilding.

In 2008 marked the conclusion of the Tsunami project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency through the matching funds of four Canadian denominations (Presbyterian, United, Mennonite, and Anglican) for a total of $6 million in government funding. This became part of the over $84 million raised by churches around the world to support relief and rehabilitation work through Action by Churches Together (ACT). Presbyterian World Service & Development, PWS&D, led the project in Canada.

The Long Journey to Recovery

From the very beginning it was evident that rebuilding would be a long process. Complex political and socio-economic issues in the communities made rebuilding challenging. Determining land ownership was difficult, as many people never had written titles or lost them in the disaster. New regulations have meant many coastal residents could not rebuild their homes in their old locations. The tsunami changed the bottom of the ocean and the long-term affect on the fishing industry is still a concern. The high demand for wood threatened Indonesia’s tropical forests, many of which have already been depleted due to illegal logging and agricultural expansion.

However, the strength of local partners in the region was a blessing. Familiar with the local context, combined with a solid history of partnership with Canadian churches, local partners rose up to meet the challenges. Houses were rebuilt and water and sanitation facilities restored. Thousands of people re-established their lives and livelihoods. Boats, engines, fishing nets and other equipment were provided to fishing families. Other families were helped to rebuild businesses and start income generating activities. Counseling and psycho-social programs helped people, particularly children, recover from the trauma.

Highlights from the Tsunami Project

  • 838 houses were built for tsunami-affected families
  • 3 multi-purpose shelters and three community halls were constructed
  • 535 fish vending kits were provided for women
  • 320 families with artisans and small businesses were provided with tools, loans and other forms of support
  • 10 children’s parks were created
  • school supplies were provided to 800 children
  • 70 bicycles were given to school children
  • 12 after school programs were established
  • educational support was provided to 228 families
  • 28,700 saplings of various fruit and nut trees were planted in the villages
  • 20,000 person-days of food and cash-for-work were awarded to provide minimal income during the fishing off-season and to develop a sense of community ownership in community improvements in six villages
  • 175 families were provided with goats and 25 families were provided with livestock for dairy production
  • 107 children (40 boys and 67girls) were trained in five vocational training centres
  • 72 women participated in functional literacy classes (life-oriented education)
  • more than 100 youth, mostly women, were trained in typewriting, tailoring, basic computer skills, and found local employment as a result
  • over 50 young men were provided with support to acquire their driver’s licenses, welding licenses and other technical skills
  • support was provided to 70 self-help groups so that women could benefit from joint savings and credit.

Leaders from the affected villages expressed their appreciation for the sustained and valuable support offered to their communities at a time when they needed it, and when most other agencies had left the scene.