Learning brings hope amidst the rubble in tsunami-stricken Indonesia

Helping children like Sophia learn and smile again

Lely Djuhari
Sophia Angelica Majid, 11, plays with her friends in Talise Village in Central Sulawesi.
UNICEF/UN0251624/Wilander

29 October 2018

A month after a powerful earthquake and tsunami devastated this once palm-fringed bayside area, 11-year-old Sophia Angelica Majid and her family are slowly rebuilding their lives.

Sophia vividly remembers how she and her family ran desperately to get away from the waves that engulfed large swathes of the shoreline. The tsunami destroyed her home and took most of her belongings.

Sophia now lives in a tent, shared with nine other family members and neighbours. Each night she sleeps on a mattress on the floor, protected by a mosquito net.

Sophia Angelica Majid, 11, wakes up in bed
UNICEF/UN0251633/Wilander
Sophia Angelica Majid, 11, wakes up in bed

Her laptop, which was full of homework notes, games, and her favourite Disney movies, is nowhere to be found. Sophia's school bag, which was once full of textbooks, is also gone.

But today is an exciting day for Sophia because she is returning to school, back to learning and to see many of her friends. Her day starts early and after waking up and washing, she leaves to start her day.

Sophia walks to school passing damaged homes by the tsunami
UNICEF/UN0251630/Wilander
Sophia and her friend pass the area where Sophia's home used to stand on their way to school

Sophia’s 30-minute-walk to school takes her past the debris and destruction brought on by the huge tsunami, constant reminders of the horrors many families faced only one month ago. She was shocked by what she saw when she arrived at her old school.  

“Oh my, that entire wall is gone,” Sophia gasped as she gazed for the first time at the surreal landscape at the back of her school which faced the waterfront. “It’s heartbreaking. This used to be a neat row of school buildings. There was a large housing complex over there. Now it’s all gone.” 

She and her friends sit down on the plastic-covered ground inside a newly erected tent ready to learn the first lesson of the day. It's a long way from normal, but it's a start.

Delivering for children

UNICEF has quickly responded to support children like Sophia by delivering 94 metric tonnes of essential emergency supplies.

Sophia sits in class in a temporary tent
UNICEF/UN0251620/Wilander
Sophia sits in class in a temporary tent supported by UNICEF
Sophia receives a white bag with school equipment from her principal
UNICEF/UN0251621/Wilander
Sophia receives a white bag with school equipment from her principal, supported by UNICEF

Sophie’s school was among the first to receive one of the 450 school tents and 300 school-in-a-boxes’ that UNICEF has committed to deliver to affected schools, serving more than 184,000 children and nearly 13,000 teachers.

All schools are resuming from 8 to 11 AM each day, with an hour dedicated to psychosocial support – singing, playing games, talking in a group or one-on-one with the teachers about whatever is on their mind.

But aftershocks are still a regular occurrence and many parents fear a repeat of last month’s devastation. The return to school though is an important way to ensure children like Sophia can move on from last month’s crisis.

Sophia sings along in class
UNICEF/UN0251623/Wilander

After school, Sophia and her older brother go to see their home, stripped of its roof, wooden walls, doors. Only a cement foundation is now left behind, marking the four rooms of her house.

She looks through the wreckage to try and find some of her belongings, including her school uniform, shoes or sandals without any luck.

Sophia sits outside the wreckage of her home
UNICEF/UN0251634/Wilander
Sophia sits outside the wreckage of her home

It’s a long way back but UNICEF is working to give the thousands of affected people assistance during this difficult time.

Donate today to help children like Sophia.