While we were docked in Jakarta last week, hundreds of people came to see the Esperanza and take a tour around the bridge. These included Greenpeace supporters, journalists and the general public, but there was one group that was particularly special.
When he’s not being second mate on various Greenpeace ships, Dmitri runs a charity called Orphans Trust Fund in his adopted home of New Zealand to help kids who lost their parents in the 2004 tsunami. He was on board the Rainbow Warrior when she delivered aid to Aceh in Sumatra following the disaster and stayed behind to help when the ship departed.
The money Dmitri raises helps to pay for the kids’ education at a school called Fajar Hidayah which has faculties in both Aceh and Jakarta. As we were in town, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give them an exclusive tour of the ship.
Here Dmitri explains how he came to set up his charity and why he believes helping just a few children is very important. Listen to the interview, and there’s a transcript below.
The first time I went to Aceh was in 2004 when the tsunami occurred. The Rainbow Warrior was in Singapore, and seven or 10 days after the tsunami we were already in Aceh assisting the people. We were delivering humanitarian help along the west coast of Sumatra, and after one month the situation became better. The Rainbow Warrior left for another campaign and I stayed in Aceh for another two months with different aid organisations.
Then one day I heard about the orphanage and I became very interested because there were like 50,000 kids who lost one or two parents. I went to this place and this is how I met these people for the first time.
Before I left Aceh, I have friends in Alaska who are fishermen and my idea was to open individual bank accounts for 90 children in the orphanage school. I asked my friends in Alaska and they sent me around US$800 straight away so there were no questions, and it took about three days to take all the children to the bank and we opened 90 individual bank accounts.
After this I went back to New Zealand and I tried to find help from the big aid organisations, but they were too busy with other projects and some of them told me there are not going to give anything, not even $1. And finally one organisation, Tearfund, they start helping me and they gave me the right directions.
I still had to look for the sponsorship for these kids so I talk to my friends and we did some picture exhibitions regarding the tsunami and children. We set up maybe four or five picture exhibitions around Auckland, and at the exhibitions I talked to the visitors, I showed them video and pictures, and some people became interested to help these children. And finally this is how we started Orphans Trust Fund.
For two days, around 80 or 90 children visited the Esperanza. Because I keep in touch with the kids, they knew the Esperanza was coming to Jakarta so they were waiting for me and for the ship, and to meet me again and I was looking forward as well. So it was a very special tour, it was like a privilege for these kids.
We tried to show them as much as possible and we even took them to the engine room. The engineers, Mannes and Sabine, were showing them around and the kids asked many questions and some of them become very interested. They asked questions about Greenpeace and that’s good because some of them, they grow up now. Some of them are 18 years old and these are people who after five years will get jobs and will do hopefully the right things. To keep in touch with Greenpeace, I think it’s important, for the future as well.
Today, we have still 13 children supported by New Zealand. It’s not much but it’s something and I think every kid is important. Even if we support one kid, that’s a lot.
posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza