To the Rescue in the Mentawais

Nothing but foundations remain. Completely leveled.

By pro surfer / traveler / humanitarian / model / iPhone-app-creator Jon Rose

Mother nature is SO powerful. Shocking really…

We finally arrived to the islands two days ago after 35 hrs of travel. Like most of the charter boats in the area, our boat is pretty well packed with aid supplies. We also have 3 (Indonesian) SurfAid International (primary NGO in the area) workers on board who are coordinating the aid distributions for each village we pass by.

The first two little villages we saw yesterday were 90% leveled. One of the them had 18 fatalities from the Tsunami… and to give some perspective, there’s only about 80 people in the entire village. So do the math – a quarter of their population erased in an instant. It’s like all of their houses just disappeared into thin air with nothing but a little cement foundation remains. The reports from the villagers are suggesting that most of the casualties were from people getting hit by debris (cement blocks, wood framing, or trees) when the wave came in. The other cause is a bit graphic so I apologize in advance – they said that once the mass of water receded back out to the ocean it pulled people with it… most of whom were children. The children and elderly are the most susceptible to being swept away because they aren’t strong enough to grab onto a tree of something stationary until the surge passes. In most of the villages we’ve visited there are at least a few people still unaccounted for that are feared to be among those who were swept out to sea.

All of this intel is hard for someone like me to really grasp. I may be standing in their decimated village seeing the destruction with my own eyes… or hearing first hand from them about their horrific experiences, but I really have no idea. We can do our part and help them as best we can… but until I’m sitting in a little tropical village and a relentless 3 meter wall of water steam rolls through in the middle of the night, I will never truly understand what they went through.

There’s no doubt these people are resilient and used to adversity… their character was tested beyond comprehension and yet they were all smiles when greeting us. We demo’d and distributed 3 filters to the survivors of those two villages. The filters we’re using for this mission will produce enough clean water for 100+ people so we’re generally giving 1-3 per village. There is very little help getting to these people and if it wasn’t for the surf community, it’d probably be next to nothing. SurfAid International is doing a great job of coordinating aid efforts and effectively distributing throughout the region. The international media has no real idea what the conditions are on the ground out here, because you really can’t until you see it with your own eyes. Even in this case, I can describe things to my best ability but there are pictures, smells, sounds, etc.. ingrained in my head that defy words…

We are doing what we can and will stay the course, but it’s important to know that they need help… and a lot of it. I am creating a log of the villages we’ve distributed filters to and how many each of them get. With that I’m doing assessments along the way, trying to calculate the ideal number of filters each of them would need to be fully sustained. The good news (if that’s even appropriate to say) is that most of these villages are fairly small in size which means in some cases 10 filters is all they’d need. Once back home we will put forth an effort to raise funds for the additional amount needed from all the villages combined and then get them over here ASAP. The filters we are giving them now will hold them over until the we can get the reinforcement project rolling.

Please help spread the word and also let me know if ANY of you are traveling to Indo soon and wouldn’t mind taking some filters over for us…

To make a contribution please visit:
SurfAid International –
Waves For Water –

More to come…