Relief volunteers from the Singapore office of the YMCA departed with various non-government organizations for Aceh, Indonesia this Friday. Those involved with this operation include Singaporean-nationals from the YMCA, Red Cross, Touch Community Services, and Mercy Relief.
For a little more than a week, all four teams of volunteers will sleep aboard the 6000-ton landing craft. The Republic of Singapore Ship (RSS) Endeavor left port loaded with two trucks and 200 relief pallets worth of food, tents, and school supplies. Commissioned in 2001, the Endeavor has in the past mobilized for humanitarian crisis in locations as far as East Timor and the Persian Gulf.
Upon arrival, the YMCA team, working alongside their counterparts, will spend several days on shore setting up tents, distributing supplies, and addressing the medical needs of tsunami survivors. The volunteers range from 21 to 53 in age.
As Singapore plans to withdraw its armed forces in accordance to the Indonesian government’s March deadline for all foreign military forces to leave, NGOs are taking up an increasingly significant part of the relief efforts.
However, the situation remains no less difficult for NGOs in Aceh. The area has seen fighting between separatists and the Indonesian military prior to the tsunami. Sources say that antagonism between both sides remain, prompting the United Nations to voice concerns for aid workers there.
According to AP sources, Muslims groups involved with rescue operations have reportedly warned Christian relief groups against preaching to survivors.
Despite the situation, the relief-teams showed much optimism shortly before departing. “Not all of us are so well trained and experienced, but we just want to show Singapore has extended the hand of friendship to say we're here to help you, to serve you,” Tan Hee Guan, a volunteer with Touch Family Services, said to AP.