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[whitespace] A School for Survivors

Jack Schultz is back from Bali--and has another tsunami relief project in the works

By Virginia Lee

Metro Santa Cruz readers who first learned of Jack Schultz's trip to Indonesia to assist in tsunami relief on Sumatra (Cover Story, "The Heart of the World," Feb. 9, 2005), will be curious to know that Schultz is back and has the latest news. Having flown to Bali in mid-January (where his son, Sam Schultz, has lived for 15 years), Schultz Sr. took $2,500 raised through private donations to help buy vital supplies, and delivered them by boat to many of the devastated fishing villages that are now only accessible by sea.

Traveling up the Sumatran coast on the Batavia, Schultz saw that all of the fishing villages were separated by steep mountain ridges--and now isolated since the tidal wave took out all 54 bridges that had connected these villages to the outside world along a coastal highway. "The tide line left by the tsunami is 60-75 feet high," says Jack during a half-hour photo presentation given to his Quaker meeting group on March 9, "so there are no standing villages left on the Acehnese coast," he continues grimly. "The only survivors were those who went up into the hills. There was nothing to come back to. Maybe 400 survived out of a village population of 8,000." Sumatra alone lost 200,000 and Banda Aceh was the area that took the greatest and most immediate impact from the tsunami.

Teaming up with his son, Sam, who put together 75 tool kits to help these survivors rebuild their homes, Jack chartered the Batavia, an old cruise ship, and made four trips to Banda Aceh over the course of a month. Along with regular provisions and cooking utensils, Jack also brought water purification equipment so that the villagers could restore a fresh water supply for drinking and bathing.

"Although the Red Cross received lots of donated money," comments Jack, "most of their relief supplies ended up in the cities. The fishing villages were forgotten," he said. "The Red Cross helicopters would drive me crazy. They'd show up with clipboards in hand, but little more than dried noodles for the survivors. These people needed a lot more than dried noodles."

In addition, Jack and his crew built a 60-foot-long latrine so that the returning villagers would have some sanitation. Also, the salt water had ruined the rice paddies, so they pumped out the brackish brine and also made the well water usable again. Then they helped fishermen repair their boats and provided fish hooks so that the villagers could regain both a livelihood and a source of protein, so essential to a healthy diet. Fish goes well with dried noodles.

Jack also ran into some other worthwhile groups doing relief work. "One NGO called Mentor, an anti-malarial group, sprayed to kill mosquitoes and provided mosquito netting," continues Jack. He also credits Habitat for Humanity, a medical group called Operation Blessing and the U.N., who put up canvas tents--a third of which were being used.

But Jack Schultz' newest project is to establish a school in Lhok Kruet and one in Palau Raya to bring families from the hills back into their villages.

"They're not going to come back unless there's a good school for their kids," he says. "For about $400,000, I think we can build one. There's plenty of land available." Jack has already approached the Santa Cruz City Council to see if the Santa Cruz community will sponsor a sister-city-style project with the Indonesian Ministry of Education. He envisions funds to support about 700 students and staff, perhaps even American exchange teachers.

The bottom line is that those whose lives were destroyed in the tsunami are not just refugees. These are people who need ongoing help to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. In reality, that aid is unlikely to come from organizations like the Red Cross or any local government. Like so many humanitarian efforts in the world today, it seems to be up to people like you, me--and Jack Schultz.

For more information, or to help Jack Schultz's relief efforts, email him at at [email protected], or contact www.electriclamb.org.

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From the March 30-April 6, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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