Mother and daughter work together

— Photo by Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance

Zaitun grabbed her children and ran to the nearby hills when the 2004 tsunami hit her neighborhood in Banda Aceh, at the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. When she returned hours later, she found her home demolished and most of her belongings missing or ruined. 

The government eventually helped to replace the house, though Zaitun spent a couple of years living in a tent. Replacing her belongings was more of a challenge, however, particularly the equipment she had used to earn a living from baking and selling pastries. 

Church World Service, a member of the ACT Alliance, came to the rescue of Zaitun and other women in the Lampisang neighborhood. After helping the women form a cooperative, CWS then loaned them the equipment and sufficient raw materials to get production started. But rather than repaying CWS, the women repaid their loans to the cooperative they had started, thus building up a fund that they could use for future loans. At the same time, the women were required to deposit a small amount each week into a personal savings account that the cooperative managed. 

It was Zaitun’s first experience with a formal financial organization. “Before the tsunami, only my husband had a bank account, and it was a piggy bank,” she said. 

Zaitun paid off her first loan in ten months. In the years since her business hasn’t made her rich, but she has kept her four children in school. Her eldest child, 23-year old daughter Nizria just graduated from a local university with a degree in economics. While she’s looking for a job, she’s helping her mother bake. 

The cooperative has more than 100 members. “Those who are members increase their family’s income, rather than just sit around all day long,” said Laila Qadri, the group’s secretary. 

Qadri says part of the cooperative’s appeal is that Lampisang is far from the Banda Aceh city center, where banks are located. “We’re much more accessible than a bank, and banks have lots of paperwork,” she said. 

The savings group currently has more than 100 million rupiah on hand, the equivalent of more than $8,000. The women also manage a special fund used for making what they call “social grants” for weddings and funerals. 

Many of the women in the group are widows, having lost their husbands either in Aceh’s armed conflict or during the tsunami. “It’s particularly tough for widows to survive, but without this project it would be much more difficult,” Qadri said.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance responded to the tsunami as a member of ACT Alliance.  Read Tsunami: 10 Years Later, A Lesson in Resilience - includes link to Resiliency video trailer


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