In December 2004, Maggie Hamilton, who was only nine at the time, was moved by the images she saw on television and in newspapers of the tsunami that struck Aceh, Indonesia, and many other countries in Southeast Asia. Almost immediately, Maggie and her third grade classmates at Charlevoix Elementary School in northern Michigan began raising money to help, eventually collecting over $700 that she donated to American Red Cross.
Pen pals, Maggie Hamilton and Nada Luthfiyyah, together while visiting an American Red Cross tsunami recovery project in Seubun Keutapa, Indonesia.
Photo: Nanda Aprilia/American Red Cross
Now, three and a half years later, Maggie has just made a trip to Indonesia – completing a remarkable journey for such a young girl. "I’m really glad to know our small donation had such an impact," she said.
Maggie and her classmates also sent letters and friendship bracelets to the children of Aceh, expressing their sympathy and sadness over the tragedy. Maggie’s letter eventually found its way to Nada Luthfiyyah, a nine-year-old Indonesian girl who lost both of her parents and siblings to the tsunami. Nada and Maggie, now ages 11 and 12, have been corresponding ever since.
Last week, Maggie traveled to Indonesia to meet Nada and see the tsunami recovery activities supported by the American Red Cross. Along with Nada, Maggie and her family visited Seubun Keutapang village, near Banda Aceh, where villagers were forced to run to the nearby hills for safety. The earthquake and flood waters left only four houses standing and destroyed their community.
Since the tsunami struck, the American Red Cross has been working to restore communities in the affected areas. In Seubun Keutapang, the Red Cross has been helping rebuild the community center and village health clinic, and is helping villagers overcome the severe, and often overlooked, emotional wounds caused by the disaster.
While observing psychosocial support activities for women and children in the newly constructed community center, Maggie saw her donations at work. "It is amazing to see how the children here have been able to cope and get back to their lives as before the disaster," said Maggie.
The villagers were also thankful for Maggie’s visit. "We are grateful for support and kindness from people all over the world, like Maggie and her friends," Pak Nasrun, the village leader, said after Maggie’s visit. “"They have helped us not only to rebuild our village, but also to feel like a community once again."