Giving with Vision

A community empowered in the aftermath of disaster

Story by Mark Nonkes | February 5, 2016

Despite tears caused by lost loved ones, in the village of Pulot a group of nearly 100 women are celebrating the tsunami. Photo by Mark Nonkes, World Vision

The best thing?

The worst natural disaster of the last 40 years was the best thing that ever happened to Khairani?

Did she just say that?

She clarifies.

“There are many valuable things we got from the tsunami,” 30-year-old Khairani repeats. “When God took something from us, he gave back more than he took. The tsunami was not a punishment for our community.”

Remembering the disaster

Khairani doesn’t say this lightly.

She remembers the horror of the disaster.

She lost too.

As a university student who had just moved to the city of Banda Aceh, Khairani remembers the warning.

“We saw the tsunami, it was at our back, just about five metres away. It was a miracle we were saved. Even our neighbours were not. But we rode away on our motorcycle. I thought it was doomsday,” Khairani says.

She also remembers trying to return home to her oceanfront village, to her mother.

“One day after the tsunami, I finally found some relatives and I asked about my mother. They told me she passed away, that my village was destroyed,” Khairani says quietly.

Visiting her hometown in ruin

Khairani needed to check for herself.

The scenes from that journey still reduce her to tears. She continues to be haunted by that boat ride.

“I saw bodies floating in the sea. I was crying. I thought maybe it was my mom,” she says.

“At that time I prayed that it would be better not to find the body of my mother if it were in that condition,” Khairani says.

“All my friends have depression and stress because they saw the bodies of loved ones,” she adds.

Helping children recover

In the months that followed, Khairani threw herself into her education. She focused on her training to be a teacher.

When she graduated in 2005, she joined World Vision’s emergency response. She became a Child-Friendly Space facilitator, helping heal the emotional trauma children affected by the disaster faced.

“We had many activities with the children – it healed me from the pain,” Khairani says.

In April 2006, Kairani married her best friend, Surdirman, a man who lived in the village where she grew up. A year later, the couple had a baby girl and Khairani stopped leading Child-Friendly Space sessions.

Khairani, her husband Sudirman and their daughter Alifa at their small business started after the 2004 tsunami. Photo by Mark Nonkes, World Vision

Leading a group of women to success

Instead, Khairani got involved in another World Vision supported activity — a women’s group.

“We’re bringing our community to a higher level,” Khairani says.

The group started a savings and loan program and trained individual members to start their own small businesses. For the three following years, World Vision provided training on accounting and running a cooperative and helped the women get legal status for their cooperative.

“Now a mother who just finished her elementary school education can make money so that she can ensure her children go to school. From their businesses, women are adding rooms to their houses,” Khairani explains.

Reducing abuse

There are 97 members in the saving and loans group. Now, across their village, women are running businesses from their homes. They sell snacks, bake cookies, serve coffee or dry sardines, among other things.

“Abuse in the family is lower than before the tsunami. Women are more respected by their husbands. They (the men) want to listen to the women’s opinion now. Things are better. They can listen, not just speak.”

Optimistic for the next generation

Outside her own small shop that sells candy, coffee and cleaning products, Khairani tells us these are the reasons she’s grateful that the tsunami came. Not for the loss or destruction. But for the opportunities it presented.

Today, Khairani is a third grade teacher. Her baby girl Alifa Iza Salsabila is now seven and learning to read and write.

“I want her to study more than me,” Khairani says as she watches her daughter do her homework. “Maybe Alifa will get her master’s. She should get something higher than her parents.”

Support people like Khairani, who deserves a second chance at living life to the fullest. You can help turn their life around by donating to our Livelihood Fund .

A small amount of money transformed 400 children’s lives and counting

Sophie Hoult, VisionFund International

Eight years ago, Cho Cho and her husband were living separately in order to make ends meet. He was in Malaysia working as a taxi driver; and she lived near Myanmar’s capital doing what she could to survive.

While struggling with her husband’s absence in a community where men have more authority Cho Cho noticed that young children were lacking basic life skills that was affecting them at school later in life.

With a dream and a small amount of money Baby Bright Education Centre was born.

When we arrive at the centre on a hot day in January the nursery children are asleep. Lined up in rows, quiet and still. In the next room, teenagers are dutifully yelling responses at the teacher, as they work towards their enrolment exams.

Not long after we arrive, the rows begin to stir, and small, joyful faces file past, on the way to their lunchboxes. After lining up to have their hair combed, the afternoon begins, and the small sleeping figures transform into a mass of smiles, curious gazes and boundless energy.

Cho Cho smiles at the children and tells me that a year after the school opened, she heard about VisionFund (World Vision’s microfinance institution) through a friend and received her first loan of about NZD$290. With it she proudly purchased supplies for the pre-school, something she has done with a subsequent 10 loans from VisionFund. Baby Bright is so successful her husband moved home from Malaysia and he too now runs his own business thanks to VisionFund. Currently they earn NZD$2,170 a month, more than double their income eight years ago.

As we move through the centre, I realise how it is only the size of a small house. Cho Cho has managed to utilize this space for nearly 400 students, over 100 of which are nursery children. Space is definitely an issue, so Cho Cho tells me she continues to work and save, in the hope of expanding and improving the lives of more children.

She turns to me with her big smile and shares her dreams of opening a private school, and continuing to combine her business nous with her calling to serve and empower children. As the economy in Myanmar continues opening itself up to the world, women like Cho Cho will be at the centre of preparing children for the global world, and giving the next generation the best possible start.

Support people like Cho Cho, who shares the same belief as us that children deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by donating to our Giving with Vision fund.