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CapAsia Reflections

Banda Aceh, Indonesia

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So we spent the first leg of our semester abroad in Banda Aceh, Indonesia as I indicated in a previous post. After the jet lag kicked in and we all went comatose the first night shortly after dinner we treated ourselves to a pretty bang up buffet breakfast at the hotel which had both western and traditional Indonesian fare and was quite tasty.

Vebry, our host, came with his caravan of vans to pick us up and give us a quick tour of Banda Aceh which if you didn't know was essentially ground zero for the tsunami and it incurred a loss of over 100,000 lives and was completely devastated. Complicating the recovery was the fact that Aceh province had long been in a dispute with the central government over wanting autonomous rule because Aceh culture and language is quite distinct from typical Indonesia. As a result, there was very little central organization in order to assist in both the immediate and long range response to the disaster. Our hosts were from the Aceh People's Forum a unique umbrella organization that was formed to help assist local community groups have a voice in their own recovery processes: capacity building, economic recovery, advocacy, community planning, and disaster management.

Oftentimes in disaster response the community itself is either not represented or not consulted in regards to how best their community can be assisted and the result of this exclusion is often very detrimental to the recovery of a community in terms of economic recovery, appropriate housing, transportation, education, spiritual, community cohesiveness, etc. Another issue that Banda Aceh faced in their recovery was the lack of experience some of the aid groups had in building housing. Many groups came in with the goal of building houses thinking that a house was the only thing people needed and as a result the houses were small, not well constructed, haphazardly planned, built without considering livelihoods or access to daily needs such as shopping, health care, education, places of worship, and the like. Those clusters of housing were found to be not occupied or occupied by families struggling to return to their lives before the tsunami. Conversely there were a few examples of great housing built that really allowed for the participation of the locals in the planning and building process and they are much further along in their recovery process. Below are some photos that I took of the various housing being constructed in Banda Aceh.


This is a house that was built by Muslim Aid-Oxfam in the western area just outside Banda Aceh. The house is approximately 200 square feet, built on a slab, features a living room, small bathroom with a squat toilet, one bedroom, and an unfurnished kitchen. The houses were constructed very close together which doesn't allow for a garden or space for livestock or industry, there are no discernible roads, and it is a bit of a distance away from needed services. Not many of the houses are occupied because there is limited economic opportunity in the area. Additionally electrical hook up was not provided by the aid group and most families lacked the means to have it installed. It is also suspected that the septic tanks were not large enough and would fail during the rainy season.


These houses are part of the Chinese Friendship Village which was funded, in part, by Jackie Chan. The houses were built on a terraced hillside overlooking the beach but far enough away that it more than likely would be affected in a future flood. The houses were of a duplex design but on a decent piece of land that allows for gardens or small cottage business. The development also incorporates a central covered area that is used for a weekly market and a new mosque. The houses are modest and have slab construction, metal roofs, a bathroom, kitchen, living area, bedroom, and outside veranda. The houses were largely inhabited and the neighborhood busy.


Although this village south of Banda Aceh was not affected by the tsunami I am including it because it is a great example of vernacular architecture in the area. This is a newly constructed house, is quite roomy for an extended family, has an outdoor attached bathroom, a nice veranda, and "natural" a/c which means there is a vaulted roof with vents on either side that allow for free passage of air. The houses is built slightly elevated as is custom to deal with some mild seasonal flooding and often times the area under the house is turned into a chicken coop. The primary economic activity of this village is rice farming.
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  1. Shellac And Vinyl VelocitY's avatar
    Discovering your blog was like finding a hidden jewel. I came across it when I noticed that a sixth blogger had joined our small crew. (If there were only some way for us to modestly announce that we have started blogs!)

    I was impressed with Jackie Chan's helping to fund the Chinese Friendship Village in Indonesia. This aspect of his philanthropy is hardly publicized at all--at least in the U.S. (There just a few words mentioning this in the "Philanthropy" section of the Wikipedia article about him.)

    Did you take the photographs? Both they and your descriptions are absolutely superb. I will hold off asking questions because I think that many of them will be answered in your future blog entries, which I eagerly await. ~Seana