Rebecca Swist is on her first deployment as a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member in a location that cannot be named due to the political sensitivities surrounding ShelterBox’s response. From her hotel room, she reflects on how although she cannot reveal where she is, there is still a lot to shout about including the continuous desperate need for ShelterBox aid:
‘I completed the SRT training only in March this year. Since then, I had been waiting for that call… the call that says ‘pack your bags, and do it quick’. So when the call came I wanted to shout it out from the rooftops: ‘It’s happening! I’m heading out on Monday!’
‘But I can’t quite shout it out, at least not the ‘where’ of our deployment. What I can shout about is how desperately our continued help is required here, and how amazing ShelterBox is at not just responding flexibly, but also in supporting volunteer SRTs in the field.
‘The need is real’
‘I guess this is not the average deployment. But then, what is? I did not carry a single green box, but I’ve been sleeping with the entire contents of one at the foot of my bed meaning I can’t open the wardrobe. I did not once get my feet dirty while trying to get to a possible campsite, but I packed more meetings into one day than I ever thought possible. And, I guess hardest of all, I did not get to meet any of our beneficiaries, as it’s too dangerous for me to go to where they are. That being the case, I have absolutely no doubt that the need is real. Just think about it: it’s not safe for me to go to where they are, yet they consider it much, much safer than where they have come from.
‘It is estimated there are more than 70,000 people who are displaced in the affected area who have to continuously move as it’s not safe where they choose to settle. Whole families often have to spend nights under trees or, worse, the open sky, as there is nowhere to go.
‘Displaced to increase’
‘The number of displaced is sure to increase. By how much? And at what speed? And for how much longer? I don’t think anyone is able to predict these things, but some of the various organisations working here are starting to collate their data to at least have an idea and some chance of planning. There is also an effort to work together on meeting the long list of needs, something that does not always come easy.
‘It can be difficult to combine the different ideas, types of aid, as well as ways of working, assessing and recording. It can also be hard to trust someone quickly, with potentially high stakes. So in part, this deployment has been one of diplomacy – trying to iron out differences in existing relationships and also building new ones, all the while ensuring that no promises are made that can’t be kept and making sure that no-one feels left out.
‘Throughout all of these negotiations, my colleague and I were sure of one thing: if we had any issues, we could contact ShelterBox headquarters to get help. Immediately. I’m not sure how they do it or if they ever sleep, but I am not even surprised any more to get replies to emails while I’m having coffee at 6am UK time. We have been working very long hours while we’re here – I’m typing this at half past midnight – but we’re doing it for a short while. Those guys are doing it every day!
‘So what do I want to shout about? The need for aid, including ShelterBoxes, is still there and continues to grow. The flexibility of SheterBox makes it not just easier to respond to the specific situation the families are facing, but it also helps with partnership working and avoids duplication. And none of this would be possible without the support of ShelterBox headquarters, and, even more importantly you – our donors, that is. THANK YOU!
‘As for the wardrobe door… I’m back to living out of my rucksack!’