By Amanda Stringfellow @amanda_l_s
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Nizma Scoffield boarded a flight to Indonesia just three weeks after the tragic event and started helping the children affected by the disaster.
The orphanage she set up, located in Paroy village, Lhoong on the Aceh coast of Indonesia, housed 50 children who lost their families in the catastrophe.
When the Boxing Day tsunami struck – Nizma set up a home in one of the worst hit areas and took thirty boys and twenty girls into her care.
The Indonesian born mother-of-two came to London 34-years ago and married an Englishman - but returned with the aid of British donations when over 30,000 children were left orphaned.
Finally securing a flight out on the third week of January, 2005 – Nizma was met by dead bodies piled next to the rubble and thousands of children who had lost their families.
Nizma said: “There were too many orphans when the tsunami happened, too many children with no parents – that’s why we decided to set up the orphanage.”
The charity worker visited tents packed with orphans severely traumatised by the tsunami and with nobody to look after them.
“It was devastating - I could not even cry the first time I got there, the destruction and the damage was massive,” Nizma added.
“We tried to entertain them by singing together, drawing and giving them presents and books - when I heard them laugh it nearly broke my heart.
“We went to find girls and boys, they were all mixed up and some of them wouldn’t speak.
“We chose those that didn’t have family left, that really needed our help, we heard some of them scream at night."
Nizma moved 50 of the children into a rented house while she searched for land to build them a home.
“The children were scared by water and the sound of rain and had nightmares when they slept,” she explained.
The orphanage in Paray Village, Lhoong, is an isolated haven nestled between two hills, only accessible by motorbike.
It cost Nizma around £3,000 to buy eight thousand square meters of land in the hills above the coast and another £85,000 to build the orphanage that stands there today.
Nizma said: “The money was mostly from communities in England, the response was just amazing, everyone’s heart was torn by the plight of the children.
“We went to Lhoong because it was cut off, we tried by motorbike but there was dead bodies hanging from trees so we went by boat.
“I would travel back from Asia to talk about Indonesia and the children there and to raise more money to build the children a home, and to keep them clothed and fed.”
Ten years later Nizma’s orphans have headed off across Indonesia. The men have become teachers and businessmen and the girls have got married and are studying at college.
Nina was just ten years old when, clinging to a coconut tree, she watched as her mother was swept away by the tsunami.
Rescued and taken in by the Chariots for Children team, Nina spent her teenage years at the orphanage and is now studying at university.
At 18-years-old she lives in the regional capital of Aceh – but is still terrified by earthquakes and the mention of death.
Nizma said: “When I saw her again I just stared at her with amazement, she looks so grown up and tall, I just wanted to hug and kiss her.
“Nina loves maths, physics and chemistry, as well as economics and religious studies.
“She tells me she wants to become a psychologist, to better help her people in the future.”
Another orphan of the tsunami, Lia is grown up and married, but still keeps in contact with Nizma.
But Nizma admits she hasn’t kept in touch with all of her charges, many of whom are now married and have moved away.
She said: “The rest I don’t know what happened to them - it’s very hard to keep track now.”
Nizma, from Bromley, is now raising funds for a new generation of homeless children in Indonesia who she visits every six months.
The home runs off donations of around £600 a month – which provides food, shelter and tuition for the Indonesian orphans.
The children, most of whom were victims of recent conflict in the country – are taught the national curriculum, play football and practice martial arts.
Nizma dreams of setting up a business for the orphans in the village so they can work and earn money to sustain themselves.
She said: “Over the past ten years everything has changed, the US aid came and re-built the road, the houses that were destroyed have been rebuilt and people have started working and trading again.
“Some of the orphanages are empty now, the funding has decreased so much that charities can’t afford to run them.
“We would love to invite more children to study there and give them a good future – we would like to be a campus for young people to come and study.”