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“Ice Cream Man” devoted to helping others
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Zach Abraham
 
December 22, 2006

Abu Bakar Cendol, born Dec. 26, 1960, had spent much of his life selling ice cream in and around the village of Punge Jurong, where he lived with his wife and five children. A well-respected village chief, Cendol was a model of leadership and success in this community of more than 4,000 people, but to many he is simply known as the “Ice Cream Man.”

Bakar Cendol (left), who is working to restore his community after the tsunami, shows his bright smile. (Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)
Bakar Cendol (left), who is working to restore his community after the tsunami, shows his bright smile.
(Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)

Cendol amassed great wealth running his ice cream business, affording him the ability to buy seven houses and vast amounts of land. More importantly, it enabled him to give back to his community. In the early days of 2004, the village suffered many hardships, and few people were able to survive on the limited income they received. Cendol responded by mortgaging his business and all of his personal wealth and property to take out a bank loan, in hopes of providing assistance to his village. The loan allowed him to employ many men and women who desperately needed work. More than 96 families in Punge Jurong received assistance through his generosity.

On Dec. 26, 2004, Cendol’s family was at home preparing for his birthday celebration while he was out selling ice cream. When the earthquake struck on that morning, much of the village was devastated. Then, the waves of the tsunami came crashing down on Punge Jurong, and Cendol struggled through the chaos to find his way back to his family. When he returned, he thought that Punge Jurong had vanished.

“Only 1,216 people remained,” Cendol said. “My children did not survive. I lost all my land, all of my wealth -- we all lost everything. Only my wife and I survived.”


Bakar Cendol (far right) and other villagers involved with cash for work program in Punge Jurong, Indonesia. (Photo Credit: American Red Cross)
Bakar Cendol (far right) and other villagers involved with cash for work program in Punge Jurong, Indonesia.
(Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)

Three days later, Cendol decided he had to help his village rather than wait for aid to arrive.

“People were wet, tired, hungry and completely devastated, and it was my job as village leader to bring this village back.” Through his tears, Cendol continued, “Before the tsunami I always felt I could help anyone that needed help. Now in the face of all this, so many people died, and I couldn’t do anything to bring them back. I could only help those that remained.”

Soon, humanitarian organizations began to provide assistance to the village. Cendol worked closely with these organizations to identify the needs of the community and to ensure that the most vulnerable people received assistance.

In August 2006, the American Red Cross, working in partnership with the Indonesian Red Cross Society, began a cash for work livelihoods program in the village

Workers in Punge Jurong participate in a cash for work program that helps them to receive short-term income while restoring their community. (Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)
Workers in Punge Jurong participate in a cash for work program that helps them to receive short-term income while restoring their community.
(Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)

“The goal is to help the people of Punge Jurong in preparing sites where they will rebuild houses and infrastructure,” said Dedy Rusmanto, a program officer in Indonesia for the American Red Cross. Through this program, people restore their community, while receiving short-term income until they can find other, permanent job opportunities.

Though many of the people of Punge Jurong are employed through the cash for work program, the objective is more than just financial assistance.

“The goal is to improve the health and environmental conditions in tsunami-affected villages while also employing residents,” said Rusmanto.

Through the program, the community has cleared more than 205 acres of land, dug or repaired almost three miles of drainage ditches, revitalized a flood gate, constructed 29 bridges to improve vehicle access, and repaired more than four miles of road.

The American Red Cross also engages the community from the assesment and planning phases through implementation, while providing training in order to enhance the capacity of the people of Punge Jurong.

Villagers help to restore the drainage system in their community through American Red Cross cash for work programs. (Photo Credit: American Red Cross)
Villagers help to restore the drainage system in their community through American Red Cross cash for work programs.
(Photo Credit: Zach Abraham/American Red Cross)

“The program provides long-term benefits to our community— beyond just financial. We are now free from flooding because of this work, our work,” said Cendol.

Today, the restoration of Punge Jurong continues, as do the efforts of Cendol, who won’t sell ice cream again until the people of his village are able to restore their lives.

“How can I sell ice cream to a friend who has no home? I can’t do it, not now, not when people have so little.” With a big smile, Cendol added, “With the help of the American Red Cross, maybe someday soon we will all be having ice cream again.”


As part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross alleviates the suffering of victims of war, disaster and other international crises, and works with other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to improve chronic, life-threatening conditions in developing nations. We reconnect families separated by emergencies and educate the American public about international humanitarian law. This assistance is made possible through the generosity of the American public.


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