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By Carisa Carlton


In May 2006, I resided on the island of Bali, Indonesia when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked Yogyakarta, Java, ultimately claiming 5,700 lives and exceeding three billion dollars in damages.

Injured earthquake victims formed mile-long lines outside of hospitals desperate for care. Water supplies were severed. Homes crumbled to dust. Dysentery afflicted masses. And an unusual onset of births had occurred within hours after the initial earthquake. Newborn babies slept outside or in makeshift tents because mothers could not secure transportation out of their collapsed villages to seek shelter. I could not ignore that calling.

As fear of further damage struck the hearts and minds of a watching world, I began raising private disaster relief funds from friends located in the United States. With part of the money, I bought 1200 boxes of baby formula in Denpasar and I transported them with me to Yogyakarta on a Garuda Airlines flight.

I arranged for drivers with trucks to load the crates of baby formula and thereafter we drove from store to store purchasing inventories of bottled water. I led the convoy to villages that the American Red Cross had not yet reached. We parked the trucks on the roadside, and hauled the relief supplies over the rubble in the dead of the night to reach survivors.

In the following weeks, I worked with the chief and elders of a Bantul village to construct a community of temporary homes using the remainder of the donated funds.

With the help of my American friends, I raised emergency funds to provide disaster relief to hundreds of families. And though we did not speak the same language, I led a village in reconstructing their lives. Providing humanitarian relief when it was most needed made my life especially gratifying.