Following the devastating earthquake in Padang, Indonesia, in September 2009, it was not just the aid agencies that were keen to help. There were natural born humanitarians among the local population too.
Mr Bambang manages a cinnamon factory about 5 km from Padang Airport. Despite losing his own home in the earthquake, he was still keen to do what he could to help the relief effort.
He said: “When I heard the Indonesian Red Cross needed somewhere to store relief items, I got in touch immediately to offer space in my factory. As a human being, I have a responsibility to do something, even if it is just something small like providing warehouse space.”
Red Cross delegate Peter Pierce said: “Trying to find warehousing space after an earthquake is not easy. Many buildings have been destroyed and storage space is at a premium. Often you can end up paying way over the odds, so Mr Bambang’s offer is invaluable.”
Mr Bambang had just left the office when the earthquake happened. “The whole thing only lasted about 30 seconds, but it was terrifying,” he said. “Afterwards I went back to the factory to check on the staff and buildings. Thankfully everything was okay and none of my staff were hurt.
“I then went back to my home – near the shore – and discovered it was totally damaged. There was no way I could stay there; it wasn’t safe,” he said. “I gathered up some of my things and moved into the office. I’ve been sleeping there since.
“Thankfully my wife and three children were safe in Jakarta, but if she had been at home in Padang, it’s likely she would have been at home when the earthquake hit. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if she had been at home. When my wife came back to look at the house, she just stared and stared at it.”
Although his immediate family were safe, Mr Bambang still lost 15 friends and family members in the earthquake. “My neighbours’ houses were all seriously damaged too,” he explained. “I tried to find them a tent but I couldn’t get one so I got some plastic sheeting and helped put something up for shelter. Yesterday evening, I went back and took them some basic supplies, rice, water, things like that. But it’s not enough and they can’t live under a tarpaulin for ever.”
Red Cross support
Mr Bambang said: “I’ve heard a lot about the Red Cross and I’m really happy I can help. At times like this you see they work really fast and help a lot of people. I’m hoping I can learn from them too. I am involved in a charity called Kogami, which helps communities develop awareness about tsunamis. I think we can learn a lot from the Red Cross about how to prepare for disasters.”
Although Mr Bambang felt the loss of his house, he was happy to still have his health and family and appreciates the help from people outside Sumatra. He said: “People are very generous. All the people from other countries who give money show that people have a lot of good in their hearts and we are grateful for that.”
More about the Asia Pacific disasters
A donation from our Disaster Fund was made in response to this crisis. Contributions to the Disaster Fund will be used in response to other emergencies in the future.