Ed, I was inspired by this story too. I've been in
touch with Aaron by email already. If we wanted to
sponsor a boat, they say it's around $3000. I figure a
few groups together could raise that for a boat. Maybe
it could be christened with a name that unites
Americans and Indonesians together.
--- Ed Hromatka <hromatka@...
> This major DMN story began on the front page on
> Monday's paper and continued inside and had more
> photos than just this one here. Ed Bloom is a
> former Texas DDS Administrator of Social Security in
> Austin and a Returned Peace Corps
> Texans help revive an Aceh tradition
> 3 men get Indonesian fishermen back into waters
> after tsunami
> 10:01 PM CDT on Sunday, August 21, 2005
> By LENNOX SAMUELS / The Dallas Morning News
> BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - In January, three Texans
> from Austin came to this crippled city determined to
> make a difference in the lives of area residents,
> who suffered the worst damage in last year's tsunami
> that had devastated chunks of Asia the day after
> From left: Eddie Bloom, Aaron Lyman and Eric Lyman
> founded Austin International Rescue Operations in
> Indonesia's Aceh province shortly after arriving in
> January. The nonprofit agency acts as a broker to
> build boats, helping local fishermen return to work.
> When Eddie Bloom and brothers Aaron and Eric Lyman
> arrived, human bodies and submerged fishing boats
> still clogged Aceh River, the city's key artery.
> Thousands of people were living on the foundations
> of their former homes, and mountains of debris
> inundated streets, properties and the riverbank.
> The tsunami ended up killing about 235,000 people,
> demolished some 800,000 homes and erased 600,000
> But now people all over Aceh province are clambering
> back onto their feet, despite bureaucratic inertia
> in the capital, Jakarta, and the departure of many
> Western relief agencies. Aceh residents are ready to
> get back to work.
> They just need some help.
> "We had a lot of organizations rushing in here,"
> said Andrew Sobey, operations officer with the
> United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.
> "Many NGO's brought in a lot of money but did not
> have the expertise, didn't know how to spend it."
> Mr. Bloom and his colleagues are practical, hands-on
> relief workers who know how to spend money. Their
> organization, Austin International Rescue
> Operations, or AIRO, has staked out a position as a
> leading broker in boat-building, a critical
> enterprise for Acehnese, most of whom are fishermen.
> The tsunami destroyed hundreds of fishing vessels,
> leaving many workers unemployed and dependent on
> government handouts.
> Six months ago, AIRO did not even exist. Mr. Bloom
> and the Lymans were just three Austinites who showed
> up with no plan other than to help.
> They were an unlikely trio. Aaron Lyman, 46, AIRO's
> president, has held several high-tech management
> jobs, most recently vice president for worldwide
> sales with SigmaTel, a leading Austin-based computer
> chip supplier. He was involved in charity work in
> Indonesia from 1978 to 1980. His brother, Eric, 45,
> is a world-record bungee jumper and "extreme
> adventurer" who has traveled extensively in South
> America and has 20 years of experience in the
> construction industry. Mr. Bloom, 50, is a former
> deputy commissioner with the Texas Rehabilitation
> Commission who served with the Peace Corps in
> Modest motto
> "Our message, since Day One of this great adventure,
> has been consistent: We simply hope people will help
> each other in whatever way they can, and have fun
> doing it," Aaron Lyman said from Austin. "Within
> families, across the street or across the world, we
> can all make a difference to help ease suffering and
> The men could have donated money but instead decided
> to fly to Indonesia for direct involvement.
> "We didn't know what we were going to do when we
> came here, whether we'd be pulling out dead bodies
> from rubble," Mr. Bloom said. "I started doing
> research and found this area was the center of
> fishing, that many people had lost their
> So that was the direction in which the men went.
> Shortly after arriving, they incorporated as AIRO, a
> nonprofit agency, because, "We needed to be
> somebody," Mr. Bloom said. "We were not going to get
> anywhere telling people we are three guys from
> The lean operation soon began to be noticed because,
> in a gargantuan relief process tangled up in red
> tape and politics, it was getting things done fast.
> "Because of our efficiency, our use of local
> craftsmen and materials and sensitivity to local
> cultures, we are getting outside funding for almost
> 200 boats in-process now, with hundreds more still
> in need," Aaron Lyman said.
> Now, from a rented, three-story building, AIRO is
> helping whole villages and towns get back to the
> business of making a living.
> Building boats
> AIRO already has placed 10 boats in the water, is
> under contract to build 56 more and has submitted to
> prospective funding agencies one proposal for a
> 100-boat project and another for 11 boats, including
> a 23-meter (about 76 feet) behemoth.
> While the three men paid for their first 10 boats
> mostly out of pocket, they have since settled into
> the role of broker. Needy fishermen's co-ops seek
> them out for help, and the men convert those
> requests into professional proposals, with relevant
> specs and budgets, that they then submit to funding
> agencies, including the U.N. and the Mormon Church.
> "They're looking for clean, pre- and post-tsunami
> data, commitment from surviving boat craftsmen and a
> team of workers we've assembled, approval from local
> authorities including landlords, mayors and sea
> commanders, reliable suppliers and, of course,
> quality work," Mr. Bloom said.
> AIRO's headquarters, which the men are renovating,
> is a hive of activity because of workmen hammering
> and caulking the space into livability and due to
> the parade of village elders arriving with proposals
> for funding.
> AIRO will not deal with individuals or families. Any
> request must arrive vetted and approved by the
> yayasan, or community organization, and signed off
> on by village elders, including the geuchik, or
> mayor, and the panglima laot, or top fisheries
> "That way we know that we are helping the people
> most in need and as many people as we can and with
> the blessing of all the local authorities," Mr.
> Bloom said.
> Help wanted
> To a back office, with rubble and sunken boats still
> visible through the window, supplicants come with
> stamped paperwork and eager faces.
> "The economy is destroyed. We don't have money or
> boats," explained Abdulhadi, 48, the ketua, or
> chief, of one yayasan. He had driven six hours from
> Lhokseumawe to make the case for 100 boats to be
> shared by two towns, six villages and four co-ops.
> "Ninety percent of our 140 boats were destroyed. If
> we get this project, we can help people who don't
> have work now return to the sea," said Abdulhadi,
> who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.
> Minutes later, Mr. Bloom heard a proposal from
> 32-year-old Ayi Yusrizal from Lampulo and two other
> men from Mulia, two villages that had united to
> appeal for help. They were seeking 10 11-meter boats
> and a 23-meter vessel. The latter boat would have a
> 1,200-meter fish-netting system that alone would
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