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Author: Kimina

Do you have a charity you want to raise money for?

Hire me (I’m free!) as a guest speaker to a function or event to talk about my life-changing experiences in the tsunami and what I have learned about love, life and paying attention.

The proceeds of any books sold on the night will be 100% donated to your organisation. No conditions, no spin. I love telling my story and I love the opportunity to give back to the community.

I live in Melbourne, Australia, but am willing to consider travelling anywhere to acheive my goal and support your charity!

Contact me now to discuss!

Australian Tsunami Research Fund

I wrote part of my book on Golden Buddha Beach, bizarrely feeling safer and stronger returning to the island rather than in the strangely foreign world of Melbourne. At the time, there were hardly any people living at the resort, as it was still only barely functioning. One day, I noticed a group of people walking down the beach. I greeted them as they approached and the explained they were scientists researching the tsunami. “Do you happen to know an Australian journalist who was here when the tsunami hit?” they asked? And so began an important friendship. One of those scientists, Professor James Goff, is now at the University of NSW in Sydney and he has established The Australian Tsunami Research Centre, a global leader in tsunami research. It is unique in the Australasian region in that it uses the combined skills of geologists, engineers, sociologist, policy scientists and ecologist to not only understand the SCIENCE of tsunamis but to understand how to properly educate people to understand that tsunami. Another of those scientists I met that day is Prof Walter Dudley, retired now from the University of Hawaii but no less passionate about his work. He has spent decades interviewing tsunami survivors in order to understand survival! He is in Australia at the moment helping researchers interview survivors of rips in Australian oceans. Fascinating work. I love the way these guys think about using their skills to actuallyl make a difference in future tsunamis. Walt was telling me the other day that there hasn’t been a “pacific wide” tsunami for more than 100 years, and normally there’s at least one every 50 years. But I can’t believe how frequent tsunamis have been since the 2004 one. Anyway the point of this post is to say I’ve decided to donate all the proceeds of my book now to the Australian Tsunami Research Fund. Apologies for the yellow post-it note at the top of the page still saying Samoa. Indirectly it is still helping Samoa as James is doing a lot of work there, but I need to get my coder to change that (I don’t know how to do it myself!). So thank you for continuing to be interested in my work and my book. Anyway you can find out more about the Australian Tsunami Research Centre: http://www.nhrl.unsw.edu.au/

End of the Red Cross campaign

It is with sadness that I report the closure of my “everyday hero” page through the Red Cross as they have closed their Pacific Tsunami appeal. I fell a long way short of my fundraising goal. Lessons learned: a. you really have to put HEAPS of time into something like this. It has given me a new respect for people who do raise thousands of dollars in their spare time for their favourite causes. b. Get onto lots of people’s lists. This I didn’t really manage to do, largely because I was a little shy asking people I know who have long lists and also because of a. (I didn’t put enough time in). Still, something is better than nothing and I haven’t given up … I will just be directing the money I raise from now on directly to charities in Samoa, rather than through the Red Cross. I’ll keep you updated. Finally, I want to send out a huge thank you to everyone who did support my goal and who either bought a copy of my book or donated directly. May all your dreams come true.

Journalists killed in Maguindanao, Mindanao

I have been stunned by the news that around 37 journalists have been killed in the Philippines while they were doing their job – following a political candidate’s ambitions to run for Mayor. In the Philippines politics is so often linked with violence, but as the link to the story below by Aquiles Zonio shows (I’ve also cut and pasted it), it appears that the politician concerned hoped and planned to use the presence of journalists and women in his family to protect himself from his expectations of an attack from his political enemies. This is one of the great functions of journalism: exposure. When actions by people in power are reported openly and are “seen” by others, it therefore follows that those people will behave better. It would be shocking to think instead that in this case the bandits targeted the media and the women-led entourage precisely to gain more notoriety and publicity for their cause.

According to Reporters without Borders, never has the media anywhere in the world lost so many in a single day. But journalists are not safe in the Philippines – the country has a reputation of being one of the worst in the world for killings of reporters. So get this: last year the Philippines maintained this reputation with 8 deaths during the year, according to Reporters without Borders. This week’s incident will see the country now become the new benchmark in a barometre of darkness.

The journalists I have met in the Philippines are passionate people – passionate for their craft and passionate for their stories. Many of them are paid very little, usually only by the story. They know the corruption on which they report could lead them to their deaths, but they believe, as we all should, that corruption must be exposed. Some of them, like reporters everywhere, have no grand ulterior motives, they just enjoy chasing strong, moving yarns.

Perhaps this incident will become a catalyst for change in the Philippines. I hope so. I fear instead however that reporters everywhere will become a little more cautious, a little more hesitant in their work as they know that the spotlight they bring to a story could become a beam on their own vulnerability.

There will be campaigns of support, for the families, for press freedom, for the recognition that journalists throughout the world do dangerous, honourable jobs. Please support those campaigns.

Here is the link to the story I referred to: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20091124-238100/Inquirer-man-recounts-harrowing-tales-of-survival

Here is the article:

Hotel incident made us skip media convoy at last minute
By Aquiles Zonio
Inquirer Mindanao
First Posted 04:03:00 11/25/2009

TACURONG CITY—Ian Subang, a longtime friend and former colleague in the now defunct Gensan Media Cooperative, was in his usual jovial mood that Monday morning, poking fun and exchanging jokes with us.

Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, Manila Bulletin reporter covering Socsksargen (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City), was, as always, in his fighting mood—insistent and persistent with his own opinions.

He was always late during media events, so we used to tease him “The Late” Bong Reblando.

That last joust among us took place outside the living room of the mansion of Assemblyman Khadafy Mangudadatu of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Buluan, Maguindanao.

A few hours later and 50 kilometers away, Subang, Reblando and 32 other media practitioners would meet their tragic deaths in the hands of a ruthless band of armed goons in Ampatuan town, also in Maguindanao.

That painful truth refuses to sink in my consciousness.

Subang would usually play the role of a clown and he could easily make anyone in the group smile with his jokes.

Reblando, the most senior among us, was contented with acting as Big Brother. He was already a radio reporter when I was still in high school, way back in the 1980s.

That Monday, a few hours before they were kidnapped and slaughtered, we were enjoying a pastel breakfast served by our host. Reblando, Joseph Jubelag, Paul Bernaldez and I were discussing with Assemblyman Mangudadatu and his legal counsel, Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon, the security concerns and scenarios that may arise in an intense yet cordial exchange of ideas.

We were insisting that reporters covering the scheduled filing of the certificate of candidacy (CoC) of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan, must be assured of their safety. Mangudadatu is seeking the gubernatorial position in Maguindanao.

Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. ran unopposed in the 2007 elections. Vice Mayor Mangudadatu claimed that he had received reports that the Ampatuans threatened to chop him into pieces once he filed his CoC.

The Ampatuans are considered above the law, warlords and political demigods in Maguindanao, Mangudadatu said. Someone must come to the fore to bring about change and improve the lives of Bangsamoro people, he added.

He said he had requested for security escorts from Chief Supt. Paisal Umpa, ARMM police director, but this was turned down. A similar appeal for help to the Philippine Army went unheeded.

Had the police or military provided security escorts, the mass slaughter of defenseless women and journalists could have been prevented.

Massive movements

A week earlier, according to the Mangudadatus, there were massive movements of the Ampatuan political clan’s armed followers—police, civilian volunteers and militiamen—in the area.

Believing on the “power” of the media, Vice Mayor Mangudadatu, who felt helpless, sought help from journalists. He asked Henry Araneta of dzRH radio station to contact other media practitioners to cover the scheduled filing of his CoC in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office in Shariff Aguak town.

Araneta was able to invite 37 journalists from the cities of General Santos, Tacurong and Koronadal.

“Maybe, they will not harm us if journalists are watching them,” Mangudadatu had said.

Mangudadatu disclosed that he organized a support group of women, led by his wife Genalyn; elder sister, Vice Mayor Eden Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town, youngest sibling Bai Farinna Mangudadatu, and lawyers Oquendo-Ayon and Connie Brizuela.

The women from Buluan should be the ones to file his CoC, no security escorts, only journalists to avoid creating tension, he said.

“Under our tradition, Muslim women are being respected. They should not be harmed just like innocent children and the elders,” Mangudadatu stressed.

Active role for women

Eden, his sister-in-law and younger sister were also in a jovial mood before departing to Shariff Aguak. She was even saying that Muslim women should play a more active role in Maguindanao politics to attain genuine social change and economic progress.

“This is women power in action. Let’s help our men chart a better future for the province,” she was heard as saying.

We were confident that nothing bad would happen as some of us in the convoy frequently visited the provincial capitol.

All in all, there were 58 people in the convoy—37 journalists, 16 Muslim women who carried Mangudadatu’s CoC and five drivers.

After several attempts, I was able to contact Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, commanding general of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, through a mobile phone.

He gave an assurance that the national highway going to Shariff Aguak had already been cleared and safe for travel. He even added that police checkpoints littered the long route from Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat to Shariff Aguak.

Five vehicles, led by the L300 van of UNTV, left Buluan at around 9:30 a.m. that Monday. I was with UNTV reporter Victor Nuñez, his cameraman and driver, and Bernaldez.

Fuel stop

However, while the vehicles were refueling at the Petron station in Buluan, I decided to transfer to Joseph Jubelag’s vehicle to accompany him. Bernaldez followed me.

The convoy proceeded. We decided, however, to follow the rest of the group after dropping by BF Lodge in Tacurong, where we had stayed the night before, to get some valuables we left and meet some personal necessities.

Two hotel attendants approached me and said two unidentified men riding on separate motorcycles had just left three minutes ago and were asking for the names of journalists covering Mangudadatu’s filing of CoC. The hotel management did not give any name.

The revelation made us change our minds and decided against going to Shariff Aguak. On our way back to Buluan, we tried to contact our media colleagues several times but failed to reach them.

Upon arriving in Buluan, Vice Mayor Mangudadatu told us that the vehicles were seized by the Ampatuans’ armed followers. Journalists, his relatives and his family’s supporters were abducted and killed.

Several military sources disclosed that innocent motorists traveling from Buluan to Tacurong were seized and executed on mere suspicion of being followers of the Mangudadatus.

Dead journalists

I remember the names of only 24 of the journalists in the group.

They were Subang, Reblando, Leah Dalmacio, Gina Dela Cruz and Maritess Cablitas, all of Mindanao Focus, a General Santos City-based weekly community newspaper; Bart Maravilla of Bombo Radyo-Koronadal City; Jhoy Duhay of Mindanao Goldstar Daily; Henry Araneta of dzRH; Andy Teodoro of Central Mindanao Inquirer.

Neneng Montano of Saksi weekly newspaper; Victor Nuñez of UNTV and Macmac Arriola, his cameraman; Jimmy Cabillo, a radioman based in Koronadal; Rey Merisco, Ronnie Perante, Jun Legarta, Val Cachuela and Humberto Mumay, all Koronadal-based journalists; Joel Parcon, Noel Decena, John Caniba, Art Belia, Ranie Razon and Nap Salaysay.

Later that night, gory scenes of slain media colleagues kept flashing on my mind. For the very first time in my life, I didn’t have a decent sleep.

Once again, several working journalists shed their blood in the name of press freedom. This, however, will not deter or discourage us from doing our job.

Underpaid and under threat, be that as it may, we will continue answering the call of our beloved profession.

Back in Bangkok

I’m back in Bangkok for a fellowship on journalism and trauma for journalists across Australia, as part of the Dart Centre for journalism and trauma. It starts tomorrow so I haven’t met the fellows yet but it feels timely what with Samoa, Philippines and Indonesian catastrophes. We’re missing at least one participant because he is now homeless, and many more are flying in direct from these zones. These disasters take years to recover from for those people living right in the thick of it. See this great story by Stephen Fitzpatrick on the PTSD impact of the earthquake in Padang on the people in Banda Aceh. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,26184866-25837,00.html
Another interesting piece is speculation from scientists (after previously denying it) that the recent earthquakes are linked: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26196445-5013404,00.html

Am I fair-dinkum or am I sp*m?

JP sent out a twitter today about my campaign to raise money for the people of Samoa and someone wrote back that this idea might be spam. I admit I was a little surprised, but it did get me thinking that people might not trust that I mean what I say. So I’ve just set up a link to the Pacific Tsunami (Samoa & Tonga) Appeal 2009 for Australian Red Cross on my page http://www.everydayhero.com.au/kimina I will be donating the money that comes through for my book direct on to this fundraising page. That way you get to buy the book and donate at the same time. Or you can simply donate to my Red Cross fundraising page direct (and then you won’t get a book). Or, send money yourself however you want! I’m not really fussed, I just want the people of Samoa and Tonga not to get forgotten. Thanks again!

Someone is thanking us

I put a little YouTube video explaining my decision to donate 100% of the proceeds of the sale of my book to the survivors of the Samoan tsunami. Someone from Samoa has posted a comment saying: “thank you for helping my people.” I really want to do this – I can raise $15,000 if I sell all the books I have, so please help me. If you’ve read the book or aren’t interested yourself, please let your friends know. Those people in Samoa are going to need us not to move on and forget about them! Thank you in advance.

Get off the beach warning not good enough

Almost five years ago a quarter of a million people died because they had no time, knowledge and warning about the dangers of tsunamis.  On a remote island in Thailand at the time, I was one of thousands of people who literally lined up along the beachfront to watch the tsunami arrive. We were not on the beach.  We were standing on the foreshore, staring in fascination at the wave rushing towards us.

 As a journalist, I wrote about it at the time. “A tsunami announces its arrival,” I said, describing those moments when we all knew a massive wave was approaching but failed to take steps (running steps) to save ourselves.

 Today, an unknown number of people also lost their lives to a tsunami that hit Samoa. It is not yet clear how many of them would have been saved by better warnings and better education.

 Hundreds of kilometres away, New Zealanders were alerted to the approaching tsunami.  “Get off the beach”, was the message that was resoundly repeated through the media.

 I fear nothing has been learned from those lives lost in tsunamis past. I trawl through the internet, and see photograph after photograph of people in New Zealand standing on the tops of beaches, eyes fixed on the horizon. Children on driftwood tree stumps just metres from the shoreline. Even a police vehicle parked on the sand – a centurion to what? Naivety? Foolish courage? 

My friends who died in the Boxing Day tsunami knew what was coming. Some of them even warned others to run for their lives – and then stood and watched the final approach. I have spent hours in conversations with survivors, and have concluded that we suffered a form of pre-shock, not unlike that experienced by a bunny frozen in a headlight.

You can’t play chicken with a tsunami. You can’t outrun one either, once you decide the time for sightseeing has ended and lifesaving has begun.

Unlike Samoans, and possibly many other Pacific Islanders, it seems that New Zealanders were saved yesterday, not by wise actions, but by the fact that nature chose not to land tonnes of water on those very beaches lined with spectators. But will they be so lucky next time?