Robby’s story: Dressed for success

Published: 1 December 2008 0:00 CET

Megan Rowling, British Red Cross in Indonesia This is the first in a series of nine profiles/case studies, looking at how Red Cross Red Crescent has help people to rebuild their own lives after the tsunami in Indonesia.

Robby Darwis, 30, dreams of building a mini fashion empire in the northern Indonesian province of Aceh. His colourful boutique in Keude Teunom market on the west coast of Sumatra island is crammed with neat racks of jeans and T-shirts. Traditional sparkly tops jostle for space with trainers, while children’s outfits and football strips festoon the entrance.

The Teunom area of Aceh Jaya district was one of the coastal regions worst hit by the 2004 tsunami, which killed 17 per cent of the district’s population of 99,000 and displaced another 40 per cent. After three and a half years, most survivors live in new homes constructed by humanitarian organizations, and many have regained their livelihoods.

“I worked as a driver for the British Red Cross for about two years. After that, I opened a small business using my savings from the time I worked at the Red Cross,” explains Robby proudly, sandwiched between two male dummies on the counter. “Later, I thought I didn’t have enough stock in my shop.”

Smart idea

He had a smart idea to raise more money. Robby had received a new house from the British Red Cross after the tsunami swept away his family’s home and killed his father. He decided to take out a loan of around 1,100 Swiss francs with Bank Pembangunan Daerah, backed by the legal certificate for his property in the Tanoh Mayang relocation village.

“I used the loan to buy all these clothes, and I called the shop ‘Reyans Collection’. I named it after my son, who is 19 months old,” says Robby.

“The sooner I can pay back the loan, the better, because then I can get another one to open another shop,” he says, eyes shining with ambition.

So far, business is going well. Robby says his best customers are housewives, and his women and children’s collections are the top sellers.

“All the clothes, including the baby collection, are of good quality. I make sure those who want to shop here will be really satisfied,” Robby says.