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UW Profiles

UW Students provide Post-Tsunami account for National Geographic

In July of 2011 two UW undergraduate students, Chris Michael and Rebecca Skinner, traveled to Indonesia on a National Geographic and UW-supported Post-Tsunami trip. A familiar photojournalist for National Geographic, Mark Jenkins mentored Chris and Rebecca prior to the launch of their journey.

Q&A about their trip below:


Question 1: How did this project get started and how did the two of you come to be involved in this project?

This project started when we had the idea to team up with National Geographic contributing photographer James Balog to return to Banda Aceh, the northern most province on Indonesia's Sumatra island, nearly seven years after the 2004 tsunami that killed over 160,000 Indonesians. James ventured to Aceh three weeks after the tsunami in January 2005 and took a lot of incredibly telling photos depicting the utter decimation of Banda Aceh and other Acehnese villages. Noticing a gap in media coverage following devastating natural disasters, we wanted to revisit Banda Aceh and use James's photos to document the changes in cultural and physical geography since the tsunami. We both were, and are even more now, interested in societal resilience and thought we may be able to use our academic and photojournalism interests to inspire collective concern for cultural recovery following such devastating disasters.


Question 2: How were you able to secure funding from National Geographic and what other organizations helped support this project?

It took us over seven months to plan and fund this expedition as it was our first, and our first trip abroad in general. We applied for and received funding from a variety of organizations including a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant, an A&S Summer Independent Study Award, a few Cheney Travel Grants, and a ENR Creative Activities Grant, in addition to receiving funds from Camelbak and several small crowdsourced donations from a Kickstarter page.


Question 3: How did these organizations support assist you in completing this project and what did you do and what were your experiences while in Indonesia?

Such financial and moral support allowed us to venture to Aceh in July 2011 and explore the rebuilding process through photography and interviews of villagers and city officials. Being some of the first/only foreigners to live among the Acehnese really gave us a robust understanding of the incredible rebuilding that has taken place with the help of a generous international community, as well as the villagers excitement to show the world their vibrant culture.

Read Chris and Rebecca's blog: Rebuilding Banda Aceh

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Rebecca Skinner

Rebecca Skinner taking photographs of the changes to Aceh, Indonesia since the 2004 tsunami
Rebecca Skinner taking photographs of the changes to Aceh, Indonesia since the 2004 tsunami

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