So many of the children I meet in Padang have already experienced more than one earthquake – but nothing like last year’s deadly quakes that killed more than 1,000 people.


What strikes me though is how most of these kids accept that earthquakes will be a part of their lives so long as they stay in tremor-prone West Sumatra. The awareness should be a positive thing, but it’s surprising how ill-prepared they – or their parents for that matter – are in the event of an earthquake.

One very sad example of this was seen in the ruins of the school that we visited last year, and re-visited this time around. When the earthquakes struck, it was full of students and many of them perished. From what I was told, the building wasn’t particularly equipped for an earthquake and judging by witness testimonies and the sheer number of kids who died, there didn’t seem to be an adequate response in place for when disaster struck. The head of the West Sumatran arm of the Disaster Management Agency assures me that all this is set to change. Ade Edward says that his team has visited counterparts in Japan – another earthquake-prone country – to learn from their experience. Mr Ade says they have sourced the best materials for buildings in earthquake zones and have observed Japan’s advanced earthquake alert systems and procedures. But he concedes that implementing those measures across West Sumatra may prove to be a challenge and mainly because of money. But the children here in the village in Koto Tangah aren’t aware of those constraints. But they are being prepared for future disasters with the help of groups like Surfaid International. With the help of psychologists, the group has come up with an easy-to-understand emergency preparedness session aimed squarely at school children. The class involves song and dance to drive the message home about what to do in the event of an earthquake. The program also involves grief therapy, which villagers say has helped their kids who witnessed much of their community crumble when the quakes struck. Surfaid tells me they’ve been pleasantly surprised at the positive response from the children and their parents alike. And after quizzing the kids on what they would do if they were hit with another earthquake, it seems that the valuable information is getting through.