Peter went to the disaster area following the devastaing Cyclone SIDR in Bangladesh to help with the task of rebuilding local lives and homes. Read his blog.
Cyclone SIDR reminded me what natural disaster is all about, poor families struggling to rebuild the lives they had previously worked so hard to establish from the ruins of their homes. Human misery isn’t something pleasant to see and the fact is you sometimes feel the need to sit down and weep too at the predicament and hopelessness of these beautiful people. Thousands of people had died and tens of thousands made homeless or displaced without basic provisions. So, meeting with Local SCI management and building an emergency relief team from the beginning meant a great deal to me.
After travelling to the disaster area and meeting local NGO personnel, we surveyed an area and chose a base for the International emergency SCI volunteers. Adventure is a word, but the experience is indescribable, and having the opportunity to work with such fantastic and diverse people in an emergency setting was certainly not to be missed.
People from France, UK, Germany and Japan as well as local volunteers made up the first team. Once set up the team dug holes for pit latrines and helped build the latrines themselves. They also helped to make a water well for a whole community and built a shelter for a disadvantaged family. To describe the adventure in Bangladesh would take a small book, but believe me, the heartaches and problems are all worth it to keep the dream alive.
The host NGO accommodated, fed and entertained us beneath crystal clear star clustered skies and were very kind, putting aside their problems to make us feel very welcome. We set up the distribution of around 50 latrines in this area after employing a local stone mason to form the latrines. Bangladesh is possibly the most beautiful country I have visited in Asia, very poor in economic wealth and basic in its amenities, but fabulous in its nature, reminding me of the days of Sinbad the Sailor and all the unusual characters you would associate with that period of time. People are very grateful for the help volunteers give within their community and I received some very beautiful messages from the people of the affected area as I left for home.
Bangladesh was my second disaster experience; I spent six months in Kalmunai Sri Lanka five weeks after the Tsunami another awe inspiring experience with SCI.
All of this, and I haven’t got a GCSE to my name, although I did train with the emergency relief training organisation Redr. who are utterly brilliant. So, if you want to change your life, and be other than ordinary, volunteer with IVS and gather the experience to conquer the world and make a name for yourself that will be the subject of generations to come.