Press article:

I'm helping to re-build lives - 19/07/2005

Ex-Newcastle United star Warren Barton has been helping out in tsunami-hit Banda Aceh, in Indonesia. Here he tells Gareth Deighan about his experiences.

"I went out to Banda Aceh in June for the six-month anniversary of the
tsunami hitting at Christmas.

"I stayed out there for eight days after I was approached by Plan
International, who had asked the Premier League for an ambassador to go out to Asia and keep Banda Aceh in the news.

"Although I'd seen pictures of what had happened on the television, nothing could have prepared me for the total devastation that met me when I got out there.

"The kids I met hadn't just lost one member of their family, they were
totally alone.

"They'd lost their mam and dad, their grandparents, brothers, sisters,
uncles, everyone. It was very sad and a lot of the youngsters were shy and introverted when we first arrived. "I think 750 houses over there were totally destroyed and the pictures on the television and in the newspapers give you an idea of what it's like, but nothing like it really is when you get there."

"It's funny but it's the same everywhere in the world no matter the
circumstances. If a footballer turns up then it puts a smile on people's
faces and if I can cheer someone up for an hour, then I think it's worth it. "I enjoyed the experience, though. And when we got the footballs out the children could have been anywhere in the world for the time we played with them.

"If I can use my experiences as a player and as a coach to help out in a
situation like this then I will do it to the best of my ability.

"That's to say I wasn't going out there to change the world, but it was good to get there and do my bit in the little way I can. There was a girl in one of the schools we went to who just wouldn't talk or anything. But when we started the session she joined in and I gave her
player of the morning. It was strange because that seemed to really make a big difference to her. We didn't raise money when we were there, but the trip itself wasn't about that. When you go to Banda you realise just how much there is to be done over there."

"What I did was a way of keeping what was still to be done in the news.As such, I travelled with a huge media group who were reporting it, not just for the papers in England, but for the papers across the world. I was also followed by Indonesian television so I think the whole project got quite a lot of coverage when we were over there by lots of different media.

"I'm not trying to be Bob Geldof, I'm just a football player who can help in this very small way and I'm willing to do it. People in the North East know I give a lot of time to various charities and I do genuinely want to help, so when I was asked to do it, I didn't have to
give it much thought to be honest.

"I have children of my own as well and that obviously comes into play when you see something like that, but the devastation out there is so massive you just can't comprehend it. The parts I remember the most are going into the houses and the schools when there was no media there. When you met the people who had been
seriously affected by the wave."

"It was a reality check to say the least. The people there had lost
everything and you could tell as soon as you looked at them. Obviously I'm still quite heavily involved in coaching but if the
opportunity came up again then I would like to do it. The first anniversary is just after Christmas which is when I work but that
does not mean I won't get there. I would certainly like to help again. And I will, in any way I can."


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