It’s been a while since we’ve last written and we hope and pray that 2017 has begun well for you all! On our part, we’ve been continuing to work on the projects we’re involved in, trying to keep cool in 40+ temperatures and doing a bit of reflecting on our last few months here in Canberra.
The nature and setting of our work with RescueNet is so different from the roles we had in Fiji that it has taken (and still is taking) an intentional effort to adjust our mindsets. One of the most prominent things for me is that the vast majority of our effort here is directed towards something that will only bear fruit later on. It takes a certain level of faith (and patience) to keep believing that this will all be worth it when there is not the instant satisfaction of being able to help and minister to someone in need right there and then.
One of the big projects that we’ve been working on is the “RescueNet Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP)”. This initiative was a part of my original ‘job description’ and it has been a vision that has grabbed me as I’ve invested the time in learning and developing it.
To explain, we know that the number of natural disasters is increasing every year. We also know that whether or not international aid teams are invited in, the first on the scene in any disaster are always the local people. With damaged roads, infrastructure and communications, it may take many days before outside help arrives. In this time, how local people and communities respond can mean the difference between life and death.
There are also vital steps that can be taken before a disaster hits. Over recent years the global humanitarian sector has realised the value and cost-effectiveness of disaster risk reduction and mitigation programs, especially in low income countries which are unable to absorb the impact of a hurricane or earthquake as easily as rich countries can. As RescueNet, we want get on board with this – to reach out to people not only after a disaster but also in the time between disasters. The DPP therefore, will involve a team of RN members travelling to a hazard-prone area and teaching a community how best to prepare for and respond to a disaster.
We will teach first aid, search and rescue, survival skills and fire suppression. More importantly, we will help families and communities design their own disaster preparedness plan which will help them prepare their homes and protect their livelihoods against the hazards they face. Simple concepts such as having an agreed meeting point and evacuation route can keep families from getting separated. Organising a village early warning system, building a storm shelter or creating stockpiles of emergency supplies helps to improve response and recovery in the disaster aftermath. Education and practical measures to increase resilience can make the difference between a community dropping in to a disaster-induced poverty cycle or having the capability to bounce back.
We are planning to trial our first outreach in the flood-prone areas of South-Western Malawi in September and are thrilled about the prospect of blessing the people there. By the way, if you are reading this and feel you have some advice to offer us on disaster management or running overseas development programs please do get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.
In other news, we’ve just celebrated Alastair’s 40th birthday! Yes he still looks (and acts) like a spring chicken apart from that grey hair I spotted the other day. Thanks so much to all who sent kind and cheering messages for this special occasion. It was just wonderful to get a taste of home.