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Tsunami relief: Jason's Indonesian aid

09:00 AEST Thu Nov 11 2010
Getaway's Jason Dundas and crew recently headed to Indonesia to film several stories. He was particularly excited about visiting the Mentawai Islands, west of Sumatra, for two reasons: fantastic surf and to look at the work being done by SurfAid International.

On October 25, just five days after Jason and the crew left the Mentawai Islands, a devastating 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck, triggering a 3m tsunami, just south of the islands. Some coastal villages were wiped out — other sustained serious damage. Three-hundred people were killed and hundreds are missing.

Jason returned to East Java and here is his story in his own words:

Now the next story I am going to show you was filmed in the Mentawai Islands alongside SurfAid International. Just five days after we left the area a tsunami struck the whole region so now more than ever SurfAid International needs your help.

I was stoked to be heading to the Mentawai Islands for the second time in my life because of the fantastic surf and we were going to be looking at some of the work being done by SurfAid, a charity organisation set up by surfers to help relieve some of the suffering experienced by the local villagers.

Well it's 5am. It's taken me two days to get here from Australia and I still have a four-hour boat ride until I reach my final destination — the Mentawai Islands. The area is known for some of the greatest surf on the planet.

We set off from Padang on board a speedboat that would take us to the Mentawais, a group of about 70 islands off the coast of Sumatra. The original surfers who discovered the islands as a hot spot tried to keep it secret for many years — and why wouldn't you? There are perfect waves, fairly primitive surroundings and friendly local villagers. The place was a paradise.

The fact that the place is so remote has kept the Mentawais fairly untouched by modern development but it's this remoteness that made it so difficult for rescue efforts when disaster struck.

Pagai is the island most affected by the tsunami, and that is exactly where we were headed to shoot our story. It's also home to one of the best breaks on the planet: Macaronis.

A few years ago you could find yourself fighting with up to 40 others on the one break. Now at the Macaronis they have just introduced a two-boat restriction for the area which means you are guaranteed to get waves.

It was the boats moored at two buoys that just five days later burst into flames when the tsunami washed through but at this point in my trip — I was only interested in one thing — getting a perfect barrel.

Macaronis is an 80m-long left-hand wave, one of the most consistent in the islands and it's been voted as one of the most fun waves on earth.

The Mentawai Islands have not been overdeveloped like other surfing hot spots in Indonesia, so when it comes to accommodation there aren't many options. Macaronis Resort, is one of the best. After a day of surfing they basically drop you off at the front door of your room.

On the night of October 25, 2010, everything was washed away, including the boat house, the hammocks, the bungalows and the bar. What saved all the guests and staff staying here was the three-storey pole building.

The owners of Macaronis Resort have announced plans to rebuild a smaller, safer and more eco-friendly resort to be opening in March 2011.

Of course, the tsunami didn't just affect Australian surfers staying in a resort. About 20 minutes up river from Macaronis is the local village of Silabu, which is where we were heading to check out some of the work SurfAid International has been doing.

In their quest to find the perfect un-ridden wave, surfers often act like explorers, discovering paradise for the first time, and in the case of the Mentawai Islands, it wasn't until those surfers hopped off the wave and went into the village they discovered that paradise wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Dr Dave Jenkins founded SurfAid in 1999 in the Mentawai Islands, but it was the 2004 Asian tsunami that saw SurfAid expand its operations even further.

Jason: So when you first left the surf and came into the villages in the Mentawai islands, what were you confronted with? What did you find at the start?

Dr Jenkins: Well the first thing I walked past was the graveyard and I just found all these little small graves, not one, not two but a whole lot of little graves and it was a paradise you know, so I wondered what was going on? What was going on was a population dying of preventable diseases like malaria, but the main thing they were missing was education.

So Jase, this is a very effective way of reducing childhood suffering and death here. Before SurfAid there was a lot of malaria here and the people here used to think it came from coconut juice. We have educated them, we have distributed them and now the people tell us the malaria is rare. Very rare here now.

Jason: It just seems so simple doesn't it? A mosquito net saves lives.

Dr Jenkins: We just need to do more of it. SurfAid International's philosophy is not to throw money at a problem, rather it aims to empower people to help themselves. Or in other words, if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day — give him a fishing rod and you will feed him for a lifetime.

This is the family. We are going to go and see their new latrine. The wife has been on to the husband to build a latrine for nine years and it wasn't until we triggered them and told them the cause of their diarrhoea was because they were eating each other's faeces that that kind of woke them up and we showed them how to build a latrine.

SurfAid hires local staff from the area to work with the villagers and they help identify influential people in each village.

So this is a new behaviour and Ebu and Bapa here — they are early adopters. Change agents, and we celebrate them and make sure the village knows they are doing the right thing and tell them. Make sure you tell them that they can influence others. That's how change starts to roll through a village.

Surf Aid concentrates on making a long-term sustainable future for the people of the Mentawais by teaching such basics as the building of clay ovens to get smoke out of the house, as well as the importance of breast feeding babies for a minimum of six months, all things we in the west take for granted.

Jason: Having now visited the locals in the Mentawai Islands, played with their children, visited their homes and seen the good work that SurfAid have been doing, it's devastating to know that just a few days after I left, the very surf that I was so eager to ride rose up and dealt these people such a cruel blow. Now more than ever, Surf Aid International needs your help.

Related gallery: Komodo Island, Indonesia


Indonesia's Mentawai Islands.

For further information

SurfAid International
Ph: 1800 257 957


SurfAid has launched a Mentawai Tsunami Appeal. The extent of the devastation is becoming more alarming every day. The death toll is nearing 400, the number of missing people has grown and more than 23,000 refugees have been evacuated to the town of Sikakap.

SurfAid has sent more than 1000 shelter kits, 500 building kits and 500 hygiene kits on a charter boat. Another 2000 shelter kits, 1000 building kits, 1000 hygiene kits and 500 kitchen kits are on the way.

It will require a long-term support and recovery effort and SurfAid is in desperate need of financial support.

Contact SurfAid if you can help relieve the devastation.

User comments
You can't feel for these people? ***? These are innocents you moron! I stayed at Macaronis last year. I am deeply saddened by the plight of the local villagers. Thanks to Surfaid they have a chance to rebuild what little they had. Please give.
i cant feel for these people when indonesians are torturing west papuans and noboady will do anything simply because its not a fancy holiday destenation or a government is not willing to get involved i am sure it would be different if they had plenty of ouil for us to steal

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