The Jakarta Post
Illustration of a marathon. Indonesian runners aimed to raise awareness and donations for children in Aceh by running from Meulaboh to Banda Aceh as part of the Run to Care Aceh 250 KM social movement. (Shutterstock/File)
It was a Sunday morning on Dec. 26, 2004 when a deadly tsunami hit Aceh following a massive earthquake measuring 9.3 on the Richter scale.
The disaster killed more than 170,000 people in the province, according to SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia, a local subsidiary of an international non-profit organization that provides alternative assistance for children who are at risk of being abandoned by their parents or who have been separated from their parents.
As a result of the Aceh disaster, thousands of children were separated from their parents.
Almost 15 years later, five Indonesian runners ran from Meulaboh to Banda Aceh in Aceh, a total distance of 250 kilometers. Held from Nov. 18 to 21, the event was named Run to Care Aceh 250 KM.
The five runners who covered the 250 kilometers of the Run to Care Aceh 250 KM are (from left) Gatot Sudariyono, Carla Felany, Nicky Hogan, Vonny Anggraini and Beny Syaaf Jafar, during the #AnakAcehHebat event on Thursday at Galeri Indonesia Kaya in Central Jakarta. (SOS Children's Villages/File)
Initiated by the SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia, Run to Care Aceh 250 KM aimed to raise awareness and donations for the 250 children who live in community villages in both cities that were built by the organization.
Run to Care Aceh 250 KM was also part of the organization’s #AnakAcehHebat series of activities to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the tsunami in Aceh.
Runners Nicky Hogan, Carla Felany, Gatot Sudariyono, Vonny Anggraini and Beny Syaaf Jafar collected a total of Rp 413.8 million (US$29,646) in three months. The result was announced during the #AnakAcehHebat event on Dec. 26 in Central Jakarta.
Vonny, who had never traveled to Aceh prior to the run, initially felt anxious about her visit.
“I never ran that far before and I was uncertain if I was strong enough to do it,” Vonny said at the event. “There are some negative news and stories about Aceh, and I was afraid that I would not be accepted there.”
All her doubts vanished when she experienced how the locals, especially children in the villages, warmly received her throughout her trip. “During our journey [to Banda Aceh], the locals also greeted us enthusiastically,” she said, adding that she plans to return to the province.
On the four-day run, participants had to cover different distances each day, ranging from 56 to 74 km. They also had to run across varied topography and experience extreme weather changes.
Carla, one of the participants, said the third day was the hardest of all. “Perhaps because it was the farthest distance. It was raining at the time and we started to run uphill,” said Carla.
Though both the weather and track were challenging and she took about 14 hours to reach the finish line on the third day, Carla said she kept going with the children in Aceh on her mind.
“We can do various things based on running. It’s not only about achievements, a podium or health, but also what we can give through it,” said Carla.
Vonny shared a similar view. “There’s a feeling when we run long distance for charity, and it cannot be expressed in words,” she said, adding that their action had inspired other people as they have received inquiries about the social movement.
The runners pose with national director of SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia Gregor Hadi Nitihardjo (middle) and children of SOS Children's Villages Indonesia. (SOS Children's Villages/File)
SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia was launched in Lembang, West Java, in 1972. To this day, it has helped more than 5,400 children in the country.
One of its main programs, named Family Based Care, provides family-based care for children by building a community village where they can live with mothers and siblings. Each village has 12 to 15 houses and each house has a mother who takes care of the children.
The organization has built villages in eight cities, including in Meulaboh and Flores, East Nusa Tenggara.
Gregor Hadi Nitihardjo, national director of SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia, said family played a crucial role in a child’s development. “They need to go home and our villages are like their hometowns,” Hadi said. “It feels like coming home to their family.”
In 2020, the organization plans to hold Run to Care 150 KM from Larantuka district to Maumere city in Flores from Aug. 7 to 9. (wng)
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