Sumatra Earthquake Relief


Orange County ( – An Orange County surfer was visiting Indonesia when the massive earthquake happened on September 30th .

John Rose was on the ocean when the magnitude-7.6 earthquake hit the area, and had no idea what had just taken place until his boat pulled into harbor to find the devastation. Instead of getting out of there, Rose jumped in to do what he could to help… including delivering clean drinking water to survivors. He just returned home with remarkable images from the area and stories to tell.

“No matter what, I am sure that I was in the middle of a miracle in being here with the water filter technology that I had, in a place that so desperately needed it. Breathtaking experience. Twelve crucial hours in an environment that I hope we will all never live to see. Lives were saved with those filters. My heart goes out to these people.

Digital version of the OC Register cover story for Tuesday, 10/20/09

Radio interview:

Excerpts from ESPN story:

“In a setting that was constantly bombarded with bad news we all sat there and looked at one another with huge smiles and a sense of accomplishment. It was beautiful”

“I had 10 ceramic water filters in my bag that I had planned on using for my upcoming Bali trip, and immediately became consumed with trying to get these filters into Padang and in the hands of relief efforts. I knew the significant impact my filters could have and had to act.”

“The drive through Padang to the Red Cross station felt like something out of a battle scene in a Terminator movie. Smoke and rubble was everywhere, people were yelling, while others absently stood there smoking cigarettes, frozen in a state of shock. It was so soon after the quake that it seemed there was no real understanding of what happened or more importantly, what to do. Everyone just looked helpless.”

Building in Sumatra demolished by the quake

“At one point we were standing next to what used to be a little shopping center and I heard faint voices crying for help from beneath the ruble.”

“I found their best English speaking representative. His name was Alfri. I asked if they needed water filters. Their eye’s popped out of their heads as if I had just said they won the lottery. It was a look I will never forget as long as I live. They said access to clean water was one of their biggest challenges, and not just for drinking but also to use in cleaning and treating the wounded.”

“After driving around for a couple hours we found clear, plastic, five-gallon canisters that are probably used to store gasoline. I bought four of them with hopes of setting up two fully operational systems by the end of the day.
We finally made it back to the Red Cross, it was time to get creative and start assembling the system. The next couple hours were magical. Red Cross workers and I collaborated on various ideas and methods of how to modify the new materials and make them into working filtration systems. I had my Gerber seven-inch knife packed in my bag and I used that to cut through the hard plastic, make holes, and slices wherever needed. The whole process was a team effort and truly would not have worked without everyone’s input.

Jon demonstrates hoe the water filters work

Finally we had finished one system. It wasn’t the prettiest thing but it seemed to have everything in its right place. We went out behind the building to a well that sat in direct sunlight. He said there’s water in here, but it’s completely contaminated. He said there are well’s like this attached to the rear of most buildings but no one ever uses them because they are too dirty.
I told him this is what these filters are made for so we lowered a bucket into the brownish-yellow water. At close glance the water was even more horrific than I thought. It was a rich yellow color filled with algae and other clumps of who know what floating in it. We walked back to the system and poured the water in. It takes about an hour for an entire paint bucket to filter so I was assuming it’d be about the same for this system.

Jon Rose provides filters to Sumatra victims

By day’s end there were two fully operational filtration systems and a dozen people who were now well educated in the technology. I left the other eight filters with Alfri and he said that the flowing day he would gather more materials and personally distribute them to different Red Cross station around the region.”

He asked me one thing as I was leaving, “When can we get more filters?”

“I left Alfri that evening with a new mission: To get home as soon as possible and find a way to get him more filters. It took me 60 hours to finally get home. I have been home for a couple days and everything I experienced is just now sinking in. I have been tirelessly reflecting on all the things I saw. Going through every emotion known to man.

“I sit here completely humbled” — Jon Rose

One Response to “Sumatra Earthquake Relief”

  1. Roy

    A word of thank you would not be enough to express our gratitude. Yet, on behalf of peoples you’ve helped, please accept our thank you.


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