Tag Archive for 'Disaster Relief'Page 2 of 2

Helping Kids with Save the Children

On the third day, I teamed up with Save the Children to try and make a difference in the remote region of the Cyclone Disaster Area. Why am I uploading a video about Day 3 first? Well, this was one of the most profound days of my life. I wanted to share this first. I also wanted to try and have a video that ends on a somewhat positive note. This video features both freshly laid graves and clapping children – so it’s quite a wide gamut of emotions in this episode.

YouTube has a ten-minute limit on its videos, so this is really just a snapshot of what happened that day. Here are some things that I wasn’t able to mention in the video:

  • The first kid you see to receive a blanket lost his mother from the Cyclone.
  • As we approached the coastline, Nick Downie was warning me “careful what you film – we don’t want to anger the military”. I quickly call my uncle (ex-Colonel in the Bangladesh army) asking him what regiment he used to be in – just in case I need to drop his name in the event the military harass us. “Don’t worry,” my uncle replied, “the relationship between Bangladesh and Save the Children is as old as Bangladesh itself – you’ll be fine,”. But then he added, “if you do get into trouble – give me a call,”.
  • We found a lot more graves of small children along the way – I just couldn’t bear to include them all in the video. Some were buried so shallow you could basically see an outline of the body.
  • At one point I ask Nick Downie (Save the Children), “is that smell the dead bodies or the dirty water?”. He replies “a bit of both”. The stench really was that bad. But, I didn’t want to disgust my viewers more than I already had – so I cut that out.
  • I got scratched by a rusty nail along my journey to the abandoned school. I also banged up my ankles a bit as I tripped in a few spots. The paths were far more treacherous than they look on camera.
  • Some of the most dangerous paths to the abandoned school couldn’t be filmed – like walking on a stick of bamboo over a pond. Bamboo is officially miracle wood in my books. Anything that can support my weight with just a stick has to be magical.

The worst was when I was distributing the blankets. I know that should be the high point – and it does look good on video. But, in reality, my stomach was turning. I only had 30 blankets – and the room must had far more kids than that. For every kid that was happy to get a blanket, I saw another right next to him or her with this anxious look on their face. It’s the kind of look that says “Will I get one? Will I be called next?”. It killed me. After all my 30 blankets had been assigned for distribution, a little girl came up to me and asked in Bengali “Can I have a blanket too?”. I can’t even type that without chocking up.

Click the jump for some photos that supplement this latest episode. Continue reading ‘Helping Kids with Save the Children’

Recovering from the Field

I came back from the field with two things: 1) a fever, and 2) a better understanding of the kind of suffering that people in the disaster area are facing.

I was in the field for only three days and was using hand sanitizer every 30 minutes. Yet, despite that, I ended up getting some sort of respiratory bug that has left me coughing a lot, with a bit of a fever, and pretty weak. This gets me thinking – if I had it this bad after three days – imagine living there.

I’m recovering pretty quickly – but that’s because I have luxuries that those over there don’t. I can get rest, can have plenty of fluids, and take regular showers and have Tylenol to keep my fever down. These are luxuries that most in the disaster area don’t have.

One thing I remember I distinctly remember was the intense heat. I had spent my last day in the disaster area with Save the Children where we examined remote areas where aid had not completely arrived. The cyclone had destroyed any roads that could have been used to get there. Now, you could only get there by boat or by foot. The only clean water for miles was the water bottles we carried from basecamp.

There were rows of graves right next to rows of make shift homes. Children all over the place. Many of them, no doubt, probably caught the same bug I did (or caught something worse). But, most of them won’t have any Tylenol for their fever, clean water to rehydrate, and definitely no place to shower to clean up.

Apologies if I have been reticent with this blog in recent days. I hope to be up to speed again in a few days time. Been trying to get a lot of rest since coming back.

Back from Disaster Area…

I don’t want to talk about what I saw now – at least not yet. That’s why I didn’t write a Day 3 entry. There are things I’ve never seen (and smelled) before.

I’m also in a bit of shock still I guess. But, not all of it was disaster related – some of it was just junk that went on there that ruffled my feathers a bit too much.

Anyways I’m here, safe, and cleaned up. And being able to actually see my own reflection in a mirror is nice. We didn’t have wall mirrors in basecamp.

Disaster Area – Day 2: Life at Basecamp and the Beginning of Donations

Overwhelmed and burnt out – that’s all I can say about this. Everywhere I look I see destroyed homes and destroyed lives.

I interview a girl today – she lost her mom to the storm. She spoke of it like I was asking her for her mailing address – no emotion. I spoke to a father today. He told me how he tried to clutch his little child to his chest during the floods that came with the cyclone – but his grip slipped. He doesn’t even have a body to bury – he lost her. Just like the girl without a mom, this father who lost a child had no tears. Just shock. No emotion. I don’t need to be told what that feels like – I’m feeling that now.

I also feel helpless. I gave 30 blankets in an aid mission today. 30 wasn’t enough. We had come to a small spot along a river and pulled up. There were more people than blankets to give away – when we tried to leave, people stormed the boat and jumped onto it. 30 blankets is not enough for an aid mission of course. We had given tons of food, rice, and water along with it (supplied by Muslim Aid and Global Medic). But, no matter how much we have – it’s never enough. Never.

I have a lot of footage and photos today – but Rahul (the guy you don’t mess with) ordered lights out in 5 minutes. Gotta run. Gotta rest.

(Disclaimer: Tagging along with Global Medic and Muslim Aid in no way implies support or endorsement of The Uncultured Project, me, or my views. The views expressed are my own and do not reflect Global Medic, The David McAntony Gibson Foundation, Muslim Aid, or any other NGO or charity. I am not under the employment or contract of any of these organizations.)

Field Report – On the Way to Disaster Area

The Uncultured Project – Diaster Relief Items

I came to Bangladesh with no training and no aid or development experience. My only real assets are my enthusiasm and my compulsion to try and make a difference. Here’s where things are for me now: I have things to give away, but am trying to find a way to get them to those who need it the most:
Uncultured Project Cyclone Relief

  • A) LifeStraws – portable water purification straws capable of filtering deadly bacteria from any surface water source. Estimated lifetime: 1 year on average use. Number of items: 45 (used to be 50). Donated to me by Vestergaard Frandsen.
  • B) ZeroFly – long-lasting insecticide treated sheets. Can be used as roofing for low income housing. It is water proof and it’s insecticide is the same used in insecticide treated mosquito nets (safe for humans). If a mosquito comes into contact with the roof – it will die. Helps protect against malaria during the night and Dengue Fever during the day. Estimated lifetime: 2 years for the insecticide, but the sheets themselves remain waterproof forever. Number of items: 25. Donated to me by Vestergaard Frandsen.
  • C) Blankets – locally made, locally purchased. I count that as a two-fold impact because the money goes into the local economy. Number of items: 70. The cost to me was 14,000 taka or over $200 USD.
  • D) Water Bottles – ever since I met “Mo” (featured in Episode Three of my YouTube videos), I now know the importance of water bottles in this country. Especially now, water bottles can be used to store purified or boiled water. It can also be given in bulk to an individual because – for many industrious people like Mo – these items are as good as cash.

Not visible but also part of my equipment to give away:

  • Two hand-cranked LED-based flashlights – brought from Canada.
  • One remaining long-lasting, insecticide treated mosquito net. Donated to me by Vestergaard Frandsen.

I tried distributing items myself and that really only works out when you know the people in the area and can get to an area yourself. When I distributed 50 mosquito nets, I was shocked and angered to find that some rich people (i.e. they own a car, a brick house, and even have servants) came and pretended to be poor to get a free net! They essentially robbed from the poor to help themselves. I only found out a month or so later – when a resident familiar with the area was looking over my footage. Even I gave out water bottles during the floods – I was kind of sad that the 4×4 I was in couldn’t head deeper into the flood zone.

I really do need to partner with an NGO of some kind to make a meaningful difference. The problem is most NGOs laugh when they are talking about such low quantities. “Fifty water purification straws? Ha!” “70 blankets? LOL.” has been pretty much the reaction I have been getting. I know NGOs deal in massive quantities – but the way I see it, these 50 items could save fifty lives and 70 blankets could keep 70 families warm. I’m not capable of saving lives in bulk. But so far, finding a like-minded NGO has been hard – although I am still making inquiries. But I definitely feel the clock ticking on this one.