|Langkawi, New Strait Times -- Langkawi-based Captain Hugo Crawford used to earn a five-figure salary as a yacht captain sailing all over the world.
After 15 years, the Irishman decided to leave it all to do volunteer work here when the tsunami hit northern Sumatra on Dec 26 last year. Nearly six months later, Crawford is among the foreigners still here helping the Acehnese.
He stays on a remote island without private bathrooms, air-conditioning or piped water.
Operating under the Waves of Mercy banner, Crawford was instrumental in getting financial aid and supplies to help rebuild the lives of tsunami victims.
Crawfords desire to help people dates back to the time some years ago when he almost lost his own life after being savagely attacked by a thug in Phuket.
''I was in the intensive care unit on the brink of death after being stabbed. hat experience taught me a thing or two about life and I am glad to be of service to others at a time when they need help.''
Crawford and a group of expatriate sailors based in Langkawi offered to help after the tsunami hit Aceh.
''I decided to quit when my employer refused to allow his ship to be used to help the victims. I have no regrets about leaving as my work helping the tsunami victims has truly been a fulfilling experience,'' he said.
Crawford said the Waves of Mercy volunteers had initially only planned to go to Aceh on a two-week search-and- rescue mission, but they ended up staying there.
''Things are slightly better now but there is still much to do,'' he said at the Waves of Mercy operations base at Paro here.
A mountainous outcrop of dark green rising sharply from the azure waters of the Indian Ocean north of Banda Aceh, Pulau Weh also suffered the effects of the tsunami, albeit on a smaller scale.
However, Pulau Weh mayor Sofyan Haroen said resources on the island of about 27,000 inhabitants, had been stretched to the limit after about 1,000 refugees made their way to seek shelter.
Many of the homeless now live in tents while others stay in sweltering, tin-roofed communal barracks hastily built by the authorities.
Sanitation is basic at best, and electricity and water are supplied only intermittently.
The main role of Crawford and other Waves of Mercy volunteers has been to oversee and ensure aid obtained for the victims is disbursed to the intended people.
The group has been instrumental in getting aid to the various temporary shelters built for the refugees and other tsunami victims.
However, their work has not been without the hindrance of red tape. Now Crawford and his team of volunteers have finally begun preparations to pull out for a much-needed break.
The Waves of Mercy team may finally be leaving Pulau Weh, but they have left a lasting impression on the people of this island. nst