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HandsOn Disaster Relief

Here's how we spent our summer vacation.

In June we learned that HandsOn, the group we worked with last year in hurricane Katrina, had established a project to help with earthquake relief in Indonesia. There was an earthquake in the south central part of the Indonesian island of Java on May 27, 2006. So we headed off to Indonesia in July and returned in late August.

HandsOn, now organized as HandsOn Disaster Relief (see HODR.org), uses the web to attract volunteers to work on such projects as this. They establish a base camp at the disaster site and provide tools, food, and a place to sleep for the volunteers. In this case, over half of the volunteers were veterans of the group's Katrina projects but several mentions on various blogs for backpackers attracted a number of European backpackers who were already vacationing in Asia. So we had volunteers from Ireland, England, France, and other countries as well.

Our Indonesian project was located in a small village called Sawit, just south of the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta (pop. about 1/2 million) is about 15 miles from the south coast of Java and due south of Semarang.

Click here for outline map of Indonesia Click here for detailed map of central Java

The village of Sawit is just south of Yogya, a mile south of the beltway. It's in an area of rice paddies and farms that are interspersed with encroaching suburban development from the city.

Click to see an aerial photo of the village. Our neighborhood was the upper right quarter in the photo. =>  Sawit village from the air

Sawit village has a population of about 1,000. Thirty-nine were killed in the earthquake, when about 80% of the brick houses in the village collapsed at about 5:30am.

A few weeks after the earthquake, Scuba Marc and TC of HandsOn arrived in Yogya to survey the damage and ended up establishing our base in Sawit where they rented a small house that hadn't fallen down.

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