Beyond the Numbers
by Major Ted Horwood
FOR many people the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 is a distant memory, but the enormity of it was and continues to be experienced in many ways. It is estimated that 228,000 people across 14 countries lost their lives and 1.7 million were displaced.
In coastal towns in places like Aceh, Indonesia, towering 20-metre waves laid waste to entire industries, fleets and communities. The estimated loss in the affected region was nearly US$10 billion. But the enormity was felt not only in the disaster, but also in the response. Around $13.5 billion of international aid was committed within months of the disaster, making it the most rapidly and generously funded disaster in history. Of course, numbers tell only a fragment of the story.
This issue of All the World is an attempt to communicate the depth and scope of the Army’s work and also an opportunity to capture the experiences of the people who were involved in the ministry of humanitarianism. The facts are accompanied by faces, stories and results for God’s Kingdom of many thousands of hours of service.
You will read that this publication comes soon after a three-year international ‘Lessons Learned’ workshop where 50 officers, soldiers and staff active in all levels of the Army’s response convened to report the work, share stories and identify best and most promising practices for future responses.
|This young girl, from the Andaman Islands, India, was living in a temporary shelter, waiting for her new home to be built (photo by Jo Clark)|
|Major Ted Horwood (left) visits a project in Sri Lanka|
It was there that statistics were compiled that recorded the building and repair of more than 2,300 houses, the restoration of thousands of livelihoods, the provision of boats, tools, nets and household items. But since statistics tell only a partial story, we also learned about the ‘soft’ statistics.
For example, The Salvation Army was the first organisation in, and will be the last to leave, some fundamentalist Muslim communities in Indonesia. Our work resulted in hundreds of people welcoming and sharing meals with Christians for the first time. Thousands of hours of trauma counselling helped restore broken lives and broken hearts.
You will read that the work continues. More than $60 million was donated to The Salvation Army for relief and rehabilitation. It was the largest public response to the Army’s disaster relief work in its 140-year history.
All the funds have not been spent yet. Government regulations, land purchases and construction constraints have delayed work. Also, since we don’t take a short-term view of recovery, sustainable strategies and community building drive the plans for the future. The Salvation Army is not about bricks and mortar, it is about people. And the stories published here illuminate not just what has been done so far, but why.
The phrase that was used to describe the international intervention to the tsunami was ‘Build Back Better’. It summed up an attempt to mobilise governments, donors and implementers to reconstruct the affected regions to a higher level of social infrastructure. Our work certainly reinforces this objective. But our motivation comes from a belief that God was and continues to be at work in those affected communities – ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6 New International Version). Our task is to align ourselves with his purposes and strive to exemplify his love in humanitarian service.
Major Ted Horwood is The Salvation Army’s International Projects and Development Services Secretary