Dubai-based Sydneysider, Andrew Clouting is an experienced volunteer ShelterBox Response Team member. Here, Andrew reports on his latest deployment to Malaysia, following severe flooding:
‘The Monsoon season in Malaysia generally leads to minor flooding at this time of year, but unusually heavy Monsoon rain in the last weeks of December 2014 saw Malaysia experience their worst flooding since 1967, 160,000-200,000 people lost their homes in the north and eastern districts. The difference this year was the enormity and force of the water. The water ripped through villages that lay along the numerous rivers flowing through the Kelatan region near the Thailand border. A region dominated by rural families working in the Rubber and Palm Oil plantations.
I was called up by ShelterBox head office on the evening of New Years and asked to prepare and fly out to Malaysia ASAP and join my team-mate Jack Bailey. At the time of the call, I was celebrating New Year’s Eve with my friends at a beach bar in Dubai. As always, the call from HQ is exciting, mixed with anticipation of what is about to come and the people we will be helping, but this time I found it hard to comprehend my feelings as I enjoyed the excesses of Dubai.
I arrived early morning in Kuala Lumpur airport just over a day later and met up with the initial in country team and my new team-mate, Jack Bailey. We were promptly dispatched north to Gua Musang, there we worked with the National Security Council, local Police and SMART (Special Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team) to develop a camp that would house 179 families displaced from their homes, these people had not only lost their homes but also the land which their homes used to sit on.
Building camps is always seen as a last resort, they take people out of their communities away from family and friends, support networks, security, income sources and it requires enormous resources to ensure people have access to sanitation, food and water. Unfortunately, this time we had no other option.
We were fortunate to have access to numerous resources and were able to build a camp that we and the recipients were proud of. The camp was equipped with toilets, showers, wash facilities, kitchen, dining hall, police station and even a Mosque.
I have to admit a huge sense of pride, when a few days later we went back to see the camp full of action, families living their life, getting on with it. I saw a father and his daughter walking back from the showers flicking towels and laughing together, I saw a mother attending to her small children and two teenage boys playing guitar in their tent. It may not have been a house but they were all happy and their lives can go on and hopefully in the near future they will leave the tent for a new home.
It is a powerful gift that ShelterBox and their donors provide victims of disaster; it’s not just lifesaving, its dignity…