Tuesday, 17 March 2015

"They haven't heard from her

yet. They had a text message on Friday and she said she was heading for a shelter then."
Friends of mine have neighbours whose daughter is in Vanuatu. She is volunteering there for two years on one of the outlying islands. 
I was contacted in the hope that I might have some other way of helping her parents who are trying to get in touch. I haven't. I wish I had. I have no idea what they might be going through waiting to hear whether a much loved daughter is safe. I have no idea what it must be like for several students here who come from there and have not been able to contact family.
The last couple of days have been the usual chaos of e-mail and "meetings" on the internet. For the most part there is not a face to face communication problem. The problem is that communication lines are down. Facilities have been knocked out in a country which has limited facilities at the best of times. English and French are widely spoken and Bislama is a "pidgin" I have worked with before. In fact, for most purposes, English will do.
The four "bikies" were relieved to hear that. The leader of the group was in touch via e-mail. They were packed and ready to go and, this time, it was "official". They were being flown out. Their reputation has gone before them. They will spend two weeks up there restoring part of a hospital. They will camp as they always do. All I needed to do was reassure them that language would not be a major problem. Yes mate, they do speak English in that part of the world but you might find it difficult to use your mobile phones.  His response was "might be good to get away from the f.... mess here for a bit".
I fielded a few of the usual "can we go and help" type inquiries - mostly from well meaning young people with absolutely no idea. What did they think they were going to go? Help? How? Where were they going to sleep? Where did they think they were going to get food and water to drink?  Did they think it was just a matter of walking off a plane into a nice commercial air port with all the facilities? I explained about the bikie crew and how they now had the experience and skills which were needed. Oh. Right. 
I sent them off to talk to a university student of my acquaintance. His parents spent four years living there and he is organising a fund raiser. If they really want to help then they can do that. Going to "help" in a disaster zone is no help at all unless you have specific skills and a specific reason for going and take your own kit and food and water and often shelter as well.
There is a real need to explain to people who want to "go and help" that really, unless there is a specific reason for them to be there and they have the skills and the equipment, then they are no help. It would be better for them to raise money here and get some skills that might be needed in a future emergency. 
But, thank you for offering you young people. Your hearts are definitely in the right places. You tell me there is hope for the world.

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