When the tsunami struck Pulo Aceh, an island north west of Banda Aceh in Indonesia, nearly one third of the population was killed. All islanders, including Alimuddin and his family, had to relocate to camps on the mainland.
Returning months later, the 32-year-old built a new coffee shop from tsunami debris but restocking wasn’t as easy. “We were confused about what to do next, but the Red Cross gave us hope by giving us capital to restart our businesses again,” he explained.
Alimuddin later showcased his resurrected business at an exhibition on tsunami recovery held in Banda Aceh.
“Some of my previous customers visited me at the exhibition,” he said. “They were surprised by my business and said it is much better than what I did before. But the thing that made me most proud was when people from the Red Cross praised the coffee I served them.”
Alimuddin’s coffee shop was supported by a unique Red Cross cash recovery programme, which has enabled other enterprising Acehnese to set up hamburger stands and playstation booths, among other businesses.
“It is very clear that the livelihoods programme is the best way to help the Acehnese,” he said.
Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) volunteers help families open bank accounts into which the British Red Cross pays phased tranches of money. Supported by the volunteers, households then draw up ‘recovery plans’, which are divided into four stages.
Iris recognition technology prevents people from registering twice and contracts are monitored to ensure people are spending according to plan before the next payment is credited to their accounts.
The livelihoods programme is also very flexible, allowing people to change their minds on how they want to invest as their plans develop.
“In July we bought the stove, dishes and glasses for the shop,” said Alimuddin. “With the second payment we thought we’d buy some goats but, because customers kept on asking for cold drinks, we decided to buy a fridge instead. We thought we would buy ginger seeds next, but maybe we’ll get a generator so customers are guaranteed cold drinks all day.”
When PMI volunteers last called in on Alimuddin, he had changed his mind again. He proudly showed them the tomatoes and long beans growing outside his shop, and discussed whether a stereo or a television would be better at encouraging customers stay longer. Decisions, decisions. But with British Red Cross support, the Acehnese are proving they are determined to rebuild their businesses and their lives.
More stories about our tsunami livelihoods grants
More about our tsunami recovery programme