Optimism was thin on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami disaster in South East Asia last Boxing Day. But the dedication and hard work of volunteers and staff at aid agencies means people in the affected areas are beginning to see glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel, according to those most closely involved.
Leonie Lonton, international HR policy director for Save the Children, has just returned from the devastated province of Aceh in Indonesia.
In an exclusive interview with Personnel Today, she revealed that the high level of public donations have enabled agencies to move swiftly to the second of their three-phase response to the disaster.
"In the early days, we had people who were sleeping on office floors and anywhere they could find space," she said. "Now we have found housing and have put in place a 'rest and restoration' schedule. There is a kind of growing optimism here."
Initially, the aid effort was all about emergency relief. Now it is increasingly about rehabilitation with a growing emphasis on managing staff who will help with the longer term regeneration of the entire tsunami-hit region over the next five years, Lonton said.
"Moving so quickly to a longer term strategy might seem strange but it is important from an HR point of view because we are there for the long term," she explained. "We also need to plan because we are working in a different market."
About 1,600 people applied for jobs in the six weeks immediately after the tsunami struck last Boxing Day. More than 100 national staff were recruited. At first, successful applicants were taken on for three months. Now they are more likely to be recruited on one- or two-year contracts.
A leadership development programme, which has focused on the charity's senior managers across the world, has also paid dividends. It has given people the management ability to cope with the disaster and those managers are now passing on their skills to local people, Lonton said.
Emergency response personnel are deployed alongside local staff to train new recruits as the rebuilding of the region continues.
"One of the skills we have been looking for is the ability to build local capacity, so we are really looking for people who are ultimately going to do themselves out of a job," Lonton said.
In many parts of Indonesia, children accounted for more than half of the fatalities in the disaster. This means the proportion of par