Last weekend was one which I didn’t expect to have. I boarded a flight to Jakarta from Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night, to participate in the charity flight from Jakarta to Padang the next morning.

A standby aircraft was arranged in one hour, and 148 seats were opened up free of charge on flight QZ7526 for those who wish to visit their affected family / friends in Padang, as well as an avenue for relief workers to access Padang and deliver much needed supplies over to Padang. The response was overwhelming, with all seats snapped up in 20minutes.

As early as 630am, there were people gathering at Terminal 3 of the Soekarno Hatta Airport in Jakarta, waiting in line to check-in & board the charity flight. As I was waiting, a lady by the name of Hulfa turned up at the AirAsia sales office, praying hard she’s able to get a seat on the charity flight. My heart goes out to her, as I found out she is actually part of the International Relations for Indonesian Youth Institute (IRINYI) team, and was hoping to send some supplies over to the team of people helping out in Padang.

Dian, from the Indonesia AirAsia checked and there was a no-show for the charity flight, so we managed to put Ibu Hulfa (that’s how they greet ‘Miss’ in Indonesia, like how we call ‘Cik’ here in Malaysia) on board. I spent quite a while chatting with her, about her family in Padang, which were thankfully all safe.

We proceeded to board the plane at about 8.00am. It was nearly a full flight, with 142 pax on board. Approximately 2 tonnes of cargo were also carried on the charity flight without charges, such as food and basic necessities for the victims, as well as telco equipment. Complimentary food & drinks were provided on the flight too. Pak Darmadi, CEO of Indonesia AirAsia was on board too.

The flight to Padang took 1 hour 40 minutes. We touched down in Padang at about 10.15am. Had an aerial view of Padang before we landed, but could not really see much of the aftermath of the quake. Was hoping that it wouldn’t look too bad when we land too.

As we walked out of the arrival hall, there was a sea of people waiting for the arrival of their loved ones. I asked some of the locals, is it usually so packed at the airport? Aparently, it’s not. The influx of people is mainly due to the tragic quake.

And as we were exiting, many people stopped & shook our hands. Some said thank you, some didn’t utter a single word, but with an expression of gratitude I cannot find words to describe. It humbles me so much, that such a simple gesture of transporting them to Padang will evoke such indescribable emotions.

We did not have much time while in Padang, as the return flight to Jakarta was at 1.40pm. We spent an approximate 2 hours in the town of Padang, and visited the Governor’s house; where most of the NGO’s & the media operates from. Saw people from the UN, World Vision, and many others of all nationalities congregated there.

We also visited the well-known Dutch-era colonial Ambacang Hotel, a landmark of the Padang town. Bodies are still being found, with hopes there will be more who are still alive. Rescue work was still going on as we approached the site. The streets were filled with curious on-lookers, and many were snapping away with their cameras.

Along the way, we spotted many jeeps & trucks carrying supplies to the other affected areas such as Bukittinggi, Padang-Pariaman, Padang Panjang & Agam. We also saw the French army, who just arrived to lend a helping hand as well.

Although I was not able to have a first hand view of the other affected areas, being in Padang for that two hours has provided me with insights on how fragile life can be (cliché, I know, but it’s true) & because of that, how every single little way we can help can go such a long way to those who need it.

Special thanks to Dian for her hospitality while I was there.

Some of them who were there found the experience a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness a tragic natural disaster, but I see it as a privilege to be part of something that touched lives. Proud to be an AllStar!

Daphne Cheah

Daphne Cheah, is the Regional Head of Green & Environmental Affairs for the AirAsia Group and hails from the land of Char Koay Teow - Penang, Malaysia. Scuba diving tops her list of favourite activities, apart from travelling & writing. She’s still searching for the elusive whale shark and hopes to meet it some day while diving. Check this profile regularly to see if she has! Follow her on Twitter & Instagram via @daphne_uijen

  • Djunaedi

    Thank for your attention,viva air asia