Indonesia is no stranger to earthquakes and while we are all “ready” for them to strike at any time, none of us are actually prepared. We have seen this time and time again, in Sulawesi, Lombok and Yogyakarta to name three still in vivid living memory, and the story is so often the same: the actual magnitude of the quake is relatively small but the deaths are far too many because the construction of the houses is so fragile and the roofs fall on unsuspecting people inside. This seems to have been a similar tale with over 150 people being taken from us in an instant. Very sad. And very avoidable by enforcing construction standards, but honestly this is not going to happen. 

But the biggest disasters produce the best responses and here is the response from our friend Terry Burkin who is a safety and security expert who rose to the occasion in  a flash. Here is the WA all his friends received:

“Hi All. Just wanted to throw this out there. The Cianjur earthquake that occurred yesterday has been devastating in that area with many deaths, injuries and thousands left homeless. Normally when disasters strike in Indonesia they are too distant and remote for any of us based here in Jakarta to be able to get physically involved. This disaster is different in that it is only 70km southeast from Jakarta.

As a long time expat here I want to seize the chance to give something back to these wonderful hosts of ours.

I plan to take a couple of vehicles and take some meals to be delivered to people struggling at the epicenter of this tragedy. My plan would be not to take meals from Jakarta but to instead purchase them closer to the disaster so that it also has a local economic impact in the area by helping some restaurants.

Once on the ground we may do a few repeat food runs till the money runs out. We will also ascertain locally what additional items may be in short supply and may do an additional run all the way from Jakarta having pulled together those supplies.

I want to give all of you the opportunity to jump on board with this either by sending money, coming along with another vehicle, giving anything else that might come in handy. 

Want to get this is place by tomorrow morning (Wednesday 23 Nov) as time is of the essence.

Please contact me with a personal WhatsApp thanks. Terry”

He got an immediate response and went straight into action. Here is the report from day 2: 

“What a rewarding day. Together with my friends Rindu and Ryan we left Jakarta with two vehicles at 0700 to head south to the earthquake zone at Cinajur some 70km south. We convened near Cibubur to make a rough plan for the day. We agreed that en route we would stop to buy some basic initial supplies. We already had some Indomie  and nuts and soap donated by Ryan and his family. We stopped at an Alphamart at Cipanas and bought various packs of nappies, packs of Softex (for ladies), disinfectant wipes, Indomie etc. We then stopped at a traditional market and obtained some 40 sets of blankets and some 40 plus sets of children’s pyjamas. With both vehicles full we headed up to the top of Puncak and started to drip down the other side towards Cianjur. As we got closer we saw various states of slight damage and a variety of vehicles clearly involved in varying degrees of providing disaster relief. 

Our aim was to find a body of people in dire need. Not far into Cianjur and probably nowhere near the worst of it we saw a huddle of people some 60 meters off the main road trying to prepare some temporary shelters from bamboo and tarpaulins. We decided to stop our vehicles on the main road and walk down to establish their state of need. As we approached we came across a group of ladies stood huddled on a rain covered concrete plynth. We asked where they had been sleeping these past two nights and they said right there. We were then joined by the RT village head and he led us a bit further to the temporary shelters. 

We found 3 makeshift tarpaulined structures each around 10m x 10m which whilst sheltered from the rain, had rain soaked grass as the base. Nowhere dry to sit rest or sleep. In all there were around 200 people the majority women, young children and babies making do. They have nothing but what they have salvaged. We decided there and then that this would be our focus for today. We got some of the youths to help us unload and they could not believe what was happening. Our stop was totally random but just as equally meant to be. 

We saw immediately that they needed some means of covering the wet ground. They also needed more food and means of cooking. So we went to restock the vehicles. This time we found a market perfect for our needs: tarpaulins, floor mats for putting on top of the tarps. In addition and in no particular order: ropes, 300 reusable plastic bowls, beakers and spoons, 200 toothbrushes, 50 tubes of toothpaste, children’s milk drinks, baby formula, sugar, salt, baby powder, eucalyptus oil, deep heat cream, stomach medicine, paracetamol, 200kg of rice, 30kg of eggs (a lot of eggs), several litres of cooking oil, 90 pairs of socks (it is very cold on the mountain at night), a few hundred packs of Indomie of various flavours, several kilos of traditional snacks, some sweets for the children, coffee for the adults, two gas stoves, a rice cooker (they have electric in one building) some other stuff as well but difficult to remember.

So we headed back to the same 200 people sheltering. At first they were going to use the tarps for roofing but once we explain the thick tarps were to provide a good barrier to the wet grass and that the mats would roll out over those then they soon got the picture. Within no time all three temporary shelters had lots of families finally sitting on a dry floor. They all started smiling. The children started playing. They have nothing but still have a huge smile. Everything was unloaded and placed on a concrete plynth which had a roof. Some stuff was unpacked and distributed immediately but we were cognisant of not disrespecting the village head who was a very nice man. Everyone has seen everything we brought and there was no ‘me, me, me’ but instead a very dignified and humble gratitude for what we had brought.

A few of the villagers wanted to take us on a tour of the damage to their homes. Very sad to see. Cannot imagine how scary the situation must have been during the main quake (more than 150 aftershocks so far) and this is not the worst affected area. 

And then back to the shelters and as is usual in Indonesia the group photos started and never ended. Just wonderful. Lots of smiles and more smiles.

So in summary it’s been a long and rewarding day. Very emotional at times. We managed to find a small isolated community that had not to date received any mainstream assistance. There are reports that more than 58,000 people have been displaced. Our group, that is ALL OF YOU that have kindly donated and trusted us to represent you, have had a huge impact for 200 lovely villagers impacted by disaster. Our supplies today would have been spread too thin if too widely dispersed. Instead we have had a huge impact on these 200 souls. They will all sleep better on a dry surface tonight with warm blankets and socks, and food in their bellies. They all send their gratitude.

The good news is our total supply efforts today only used a small part of the money sent thus far.  I have been promised a large truck by our good friend Bill Lloyd from Asian Tigers for a larger run up to Cianjur next week. From today’s visit we now have a good understanding of what is needed and we will probably aim to load the truck in Sections 1 to 6 so we can visit the same supplies equally onto several similar areas to today. 

After we had left the kampung we attempted to make our way further toward the epicenter of the disaster to identify potential drop locations for next week. But sadly the road just got too congested and we had no choice but to turn around and head home. 

Thanks all. Ryan, Rindu and myself are honoured and very lucky to have represented each and every one of you today.” 

I hope you have all read this so far and decided: “ Wow if Terry, Ryan and Rindu can do that what could we do? “ Well here is the answer. 

“If you wish to donate further or wish to provide relevant items then just WhatsApp me directly. The community in Cianjur will have a dire need for some considerable time to come. So far donations have reached just over IDR 100 million and counting. Thanks again. More donations are hitting the account and I know there are close friends who are actively promoting our efforts through their businesses in the coming days. Today’s total supply effort only cost around IDR 29 m so still lots of stuff we can provide to Cianjur.

The plan at this stage is to continue to gather financial donations in the coming days but if anyone based in Jakarta has relevant products they also wish to donate (rice, noodles, blankets, or anything mentioned in my earlier message) if you Whats App me direct I will give you two locations to bring or send it to in Central and South Jakarta. We are aiming to take a truck and cars up to Cianjur again on Tuesday 29 November. Anyone wishing to join that supply run let me know by a direct WA. I want to end this message with a big shout to my friends Rod and Diah Ritson who sent me a photo today of them taking meals up to Cianjur. Lit a firework up my arse to get on and do something.”

Best. Terry 

Here are some pictures of the scene 

Laying down the first 6 x 6 m tarp to give a dry base. 

Once we the laid the padded mats on top they now had a dry cushioned surface to rest and kids to play on.

Some of the supplies gathered Some of the devastation in the small community we helped today. And then Terry continues today. 

“As if yesterday’s efforts were not rewarding enough. This morning I woke up to these images sent by the village head Pak Erwin of these wonderful people sleeping soundly for the first time in the days since the quake. God Bless All who have been able to donate to this effort. Terry Burkin.  

On the contrary Terry , God Bless you Ryan and Rindhu.

And to all reading this, let us do what we can to support.

WA Terry today on  +6281381339955

Alistair Speirs

Alistair Speirs

Alistair has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for 25 years. He started NOW! Magazines as the region’s preferred community magazine.