By Surya Kusuma, IFRC

It has been six months since Sulawesi was hit by a powerful and shallow earthquake, tsunami and liquefaction. While survivors face a slow and complex road to recovery, many jumped immediately into action to help others who were even worse off. We speak to five women who tell us why.

One of them is Sutrin Pundulay, who has been volunteering for the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia) for more than a decade. After the earthquake destroyed her home in Palu city, she rushed to the Red Cross headquarters and volunteered as a cook in the field kitchen. “I just feel very happy helping others,” she says. As recovery efforts continue, she was appointed as head of logistics for the Indonesian Red Cross warehouse in Palu and is in charge of overseeing the distribution of emergency supplies.

Evarianti, 29, from Donggala district ran to the mountain when the earthquake and tsunami struck her village and damaged her house. She immediately signed up as an Indonesian Red Cross volunteer to help provide meals at the Red Cross field kitchen. “I am proud to be a volunteer,” she says. “There is a feeling of relief in helping other survivors who also share the same fate as me. Who better to understand what people are going through than those of us who have experienced it?”

Ristiana, 23, is also from Donggala. She fled with her mother and brother to the safety of the mountains, but the earthquake caused her house to collapse. At the height of the emergency, Ristiana offered to cook meals at the Indonesian Red Cross field kitchen for other survivors and was later recruited as a volunteer. While her family has returned home to begin repairing their damaged house, she continues to volunteer and provide support to others.

Working alongside Ristiana is Nurdianti, who escaped to the mountain with her pregnant sister and other family members. She is one of the many women who offered to cook in the Red Cross field kitchen and remains an active volunteer. Six months after the triple disaster, Nurdianti and her family hope to return home soon. She continues to volunteer her services. “Helping other survivors has been my main motivation and is the reason why I’m still doing this,” she says.

Siska also ran to the mountain when the earthquake shook Palu City. She witnessed the terrifying tsunami and saw the waves smash into houses and buildings. After losing her job as a salesperson at a mobile phone stall in the city, Siska fled to the district of Sirenja to be with her mother and lived in one of the evacuation camps. When asked why she decided to volunteer for the Indonesian Red Cross, Siska says, “As a survivor, I have more empathy towards other survivors. I understand how they feel because I’ve gone through the same tragedy too.”