Boxing Day Tsunami Remembered – The Evolution of SRT Training

Image of SRT member, Mark Boeck

‘I came down to the ShelterBox warehouse and was shown how to use the content of a ShelterBox. They gave me an old Nokia phone with three telephone numbers on and we were off. It was a very steep learning curve!’
Mark Boeck was one of the first volunteers to help deliver aid to Banda Aceh, Indonesia in early 2005 and has since delivered aid following eight other disasters around the world.
He is one of the longest serving response team volunteers and also the senior trainer at ShelterBox, heading up the organisation’s highly evolved training program for aid workers. The pre-deployment training offered to our aid workers has not always been so developed however:
‘It was from sharing everyone’s past experiences after deployments that we started to initiate a training program of sorts. It was recognised from the outset though that we had to ensure the safety of our teams and that we were seen to be representing the charity appropriately amongst other NGOs.’
Mark, who formerly worked for the Fire Brigade, had been put in touch with ShelterBox via a work colleague following the Boxing Day Tsunami and shortly found himself a part of the tenth team to be sent out to the region.
The ‘9 day’
As ShelterBox grew as an organisation and began sending teams of volunteers to hand-deliver ShelterBoxes to disaster zones the need for improved training emerged. As with much of ShelterBox’s early output it was a team of volunteers who devised a training program, calling upon their own personal training experiences from their day jobs: many of whom were serving in the military or ‘blue-light’ services.
Another long-serving volunteer, Joe Cannon, was instrumental in the early evolution of the organisations training. Joe kindly donated his small holding to be used as a training facility and teams of aspiring aid workers were soon sent on navigation exercises. Mentoring from existing volunteers quickly became a feature of the training, and has remained so to the current day.
Gradually the training evolved until it became endearingly referred to as ‘the 9 day’. So called because of its grueling nine-day duration. The course, which began life with a greater influence from military training, was a physically and mentally draining combination of practical and theoretical lessons that were designed to equip candidates with all the skills they’d need to face the uncertainty of an overseas aid mission.
Mark leads prospective ShelterBox response volunteers during their training course
Mark leads prospective ShelterBox response volunteers during their training course
As with all of ShelterBox’s output the training course evolved and professionalised with time and has become, with time, the envy of many other international aid agencies.
Now boasting a roster of more than 200 trained response team members based around the world, ShelterBox runs a packed annual calendar of bespoke training courses from our own training facility, still based in Cornwall, as well as several training hubs around the world.
We have worked with leading training bodies, universities, NGOs as well as maintaining our training relationship with the Royal Navy and several ‘blue light’ services, to evolve a rich program of support and development for aspiring aid workers.
Mark Boeck, along with others from the charity’s Training and Development team, is responsible for supporting and nurturing volunteers as they progress through the various training courses. As Mark reflects, things have come a long way:
‘We have come from humble beginnings, with a group of hugely passionate and talented volunteers in the early days to one of the best training programs in our sector now. It has all been thanks to the support of donors who have allowed us to learn and grow at every step and who trust in us to help deliver aid to families when they need it the most.’
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