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Spring 2005 | Volume 28, Number 1 | Features

The View From Behind the Camera

I CAN’T THANK SPU ENOUGH for sending me to Aceh to photograph Jared Wiley’s relief work. I’m sitting here in my office in Singapore, and all my “large” immediate troubles seem very small in comparison to what I experienced in Aceh.

I met people who were the sole survivors of their families, and I was as impressed by their character as I was by the terrible devastation that surrounded them. The Acehenese people have a fighting spirit, with a will to survive, and a deep desire to rebuild their land back to what it was. As Jared and I went from community to community, talking with some of the survivors, we were greeted with warm hospitality. Seeing their smiles in the midst of the rubble was like seeing light in the midst of darkness. They themselves are the hope for the future of Aceh, and that hope is shining bright.

As I look over some of the photos from the trip, memories rush back at me. Jared has an amazing ability to relate to people from very different backgrounds, quickly becoming a new friend. As he talks with the villagers — in fluent Bahasa Indonesia language — there is an instant bond between them.

The children in the school we visited were now studying in a large military tent. I couldn’t help but wonder: When they go home at night to their families, who is left to kiss them good night? How many of them are now orphans? The older man with the beard attached himself to me when we visited his village. I wondered how he survived, considering his age and inability to run or swim fast.

The plane in the photos is a memory of hope and destruction at the same time. Because the roads were all destroyed, the only way to get supplies to the villages is by small planes like this one. It brings hope to people when they see it land, and many run out to help the unloading. Sadly, however, just a few days after I returned home from Aceh, the plane crashed and was totaled. Miraculously, no one was killed.

Weeks after the trip, I’m now struggling to find my own small way to help with the rebuilding process. I want to be part of the solution, rather than sit here as a passive observer.


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