Ilham Siddiq survived the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and is now using his first-hand knowledge of disasters to assess the effectiveness of recovery policies.
Siddiq, a PhD student in civil engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and originally from Indonesia, has been awarded a prestigious US Agency for International Development / Habitat for Humanity scholarship to study the effectiveness of the initiatives long-term recovery, with a focus on the 2004 disaster, which claimed the lives of over 200,000 people.
“This research is very important to the humanitarian shelter and settlement industry because billions of dollars have been invested in humanitarian and recovery efforts,” Siddiq said. “Going back and knowing what worked and what wasn’t effective is really important. We can learn lessons so that humanitarian organizations and other actors can better manage their programs ”.
Siddiq is passionate about this problem as a survivor of the disaster. He has a unique viewpoint and desire for better disaster risk reduction and post-disaster reconstruction.
“My entire village was wiped out by the tsunami,” Siddiq said. “There was nothing left to see, just flat, clean ground. My mother and grandmother left with the tsunami. I was the oldest in my family to survive, which made me the head of my family. “
His scholarship will focus on long-term recovery efforts, particularly with housing and work. She will be spending time in Indonesia this summer to conduct field observations and meet with residents of nine villages in three municipalities. She will study the areas that have had strong, moderate and weak recoveries based on housing and subsistence indicators to determine the factors that lead to the different outcomes of the recovery.
Growing up in a rural area of Indonesia, Siddiq never imagined he would become an engineer, much less earn a PhD in the United States. As a child, his village had no electricity and he didn’t start learning English until he was 12. Today he speaks it like any American.
“People say, ‘You look like you’re from Kansas,'” Siddiq said.
Siddiq has always been interested in learning and the wider world. As a child he was fascinated by foreign languages on can labels and when his family moved from the village to Banda Aceh, the capital of his provincial capital, he first gained access to the Internet.
“This was a turning point,” he said. “I had access to YouTube, Wikipedia, all kinds of things and was getting lost in Wikipedia’s rabbit holes.”
He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in Indonesia and started working at a disaster research institute in Aceh. He gave him the opportunity to network with international experts who visited the center. He got in touch with a group of Georgia Tech researchers and was able to earn a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Atlanta Institute for his masters degree.
A conference in Aceh shortly before his departure for Atlanta also gave him his first contact with CU Boulder and his current doctoral advisor, Amy Javernick-Will, whose research focuses on global engineering, disaster recovery and resilience.
“I met a CU Boulder PhD graduate at the conference,” Siddiq said. “I had seen his abstract search for him and had started a conversation about his work. We talked for three hours until the hotel staff kicked us out. He said I had to work with Amy Javernick-Will, her teacher, and that he would put me in touch with her. Now I’m doing my doctorate with her. “
Siddiq is grateful for the opportunities he has had and is eager to contribute to disaster recovery research that can help communities in the future.
“I have the combination of lived experience and theoretical knowledge,” he said. “I am passionate about improving resilience in vulnerable communities, especially those with few resources around the world. It is a rewarding issue to work on. I think I was born to do this “.