It was a scene that few can imagine. A huge earthquake and tsunami ravaged the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, leaving a devastating trail of destruction. The magnitude 7.5 quake triggered the tsunami in September 2018, destroying buildings and killing more than 4,000 people.
Among those affected by the disaster was the commercial area office of Sampoerna, an affiliate of Philip Morris International, in the provincial capital of Palu. The company was saddened to hear that six colleagues had been killed.
After hearing of the tragic loss of colleagues and the widespread destruction in the local community of the Sampoerna office, PMI’s employees around the world moved into action. Through the company’s Projects with a Heart Association (PwH) – a self-regulated grassroots PMI employee movement that enables internal charity projects – employees donated $160,000 to support relief efforts and fund the rebuilding of the community. The association’s fundraising was more than matched by a corporate donation from PMI, bringing the total raised to $350,000.
“It was incredibly sad and tragic for everybody in Palu and Indonesia and I think everybody at PMI's heart went out to those who were affected,” said Stacey Kennedy, PMI’s President of South and Southeast Asia. “We rose to the challenge. Sampoerna leapt into activity and PMI employees all contributed around the whole company. The money was particularly used for housing and schooling, and importantly, made a difference to the families who were affected."
Building the new school and laboratory earlier in 2019, which has since opened.
PMI and PwH’s response addressed both urgent and longer-term problems, while also looking to mitigate against recurrences of natural phenomena.
In the initial weeks, 46 employees impacted by the tsunami were provided with temporary housing and health support.
The families of the deceased were enrolled in the national health security program for five years, and were given financial management education, and entrepreneurship trainings, while the children were given access to an educational fund.
In Sidera Village, just south of Palu, 165 temporary shelters were built, and one vocational school in the village was reconstructed, while more than 5,000 villagers received trauma healing over an eight-month period. Back in Palu, disaster-resilience was strengthened through city-planning and disaster preparedness training for local government.
There are now 30 semi-permanent houses in Sidera village, ready for families to move into. The new schoolhouse, complete with library, laboratory and studio, is open and educating pupils.
House building in progress in Palu during March 2019
Just over a year after the tsunami ravaged the region, local people are starting to rebuild their lives. PwH has successfully completed its work, which has been a rewarding achievement for all involved.
PwH’s work in the area has been met with positive acknowledgement by the local community, along with the Human Rights Commission of South Sulawesi, the Head of Sigi House of Representatives, and the Head of Sigi Regency.
While thrilled with the mission’s achievements so far, PwH and Sampoerna are committed to supporting the region going forward. The company is continuing to build more permanent housing in Palu and providing economic empowerment programs for the residents of the fishing villages.
Despite being spread throughout countries across the world, PMI acts a global family when employees come together to help their own. Through the PwH association, PMI employees continue to give back and support those in need through donating their time and money.
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