2 minute readDisaster, International, Volunteers
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Connecting Nepal: A Report from IT/Telecoms Volunteers

Written by Julie Bradley, IT/Telecommunications volunteer with the American Red Cross Emergency Relief Unit in Nepal

When the dogs wake you up at night with frantic barking, it might be time to put on your shoes and get ready to run. So far, dogs have been reliable indicators of aftershocks ranging from ‘mild’ to ‘Let’s exit the building.’ Right now we are sleeping in tents in the field next to Search and Rescue dogs and they have been a reliable ‘canine early warning’ of coming aftershocks. Truly a man’s best friend.

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For the past few days, our job as the American Red Cross IT/Telecoms Emergency Relief Unit has been to support field units in the hardest hit areas of Nepal. New Zealand Red Cross team member Tom McNally and I just returned to Disaster Operations in Kathmandu after installing communications, Internet and wifi to support a rapidly expanding International Red Cross operation.

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Delayed en route by a landslide, Tom and I walked from the vehicle to the landslide blocking the road, gathering with the villagers to watch the slow but effective clearing of our path. In some areas, whole villages crumbled and the community is still in shock. But in the rest of Nepal, people are moving on with whatever they can do to help with the disaster relief efforts.

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Tom and I drove through crumbled villages on the way to our field units and arrived at the same time as the Red Cross hospital and sanitation teams we are supporting. It was an eerie scene as we worked well into the night, with dozens of Red Crossers working by headlight. Literally overnight, a 60-bed hospital camp was well underway, and by the next afternoon they were accepting casualties and patients. As the scene unfolded around us, Tom and I worked to get our equipment up and running: satellite communications, wifi and Internet-based phone service which were all desperately needed for the dozens of Red Cross workers to communicate and coordinate with the outside world. A Norwegian Search and Rescue team gifted us some equipment as they departed, so we even had a Red Cross laser printer and administrative supplies – trivial in civilization, but a major luxury for these field teams.

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The units we supported were smiling and appreciative of our efforts, but they are the real superheroes in this story. We will move on to the next site, providing communications, then move on once more. They stay, living in indescribable hardship, giving help and hope to destroyed communities.

(By the way, we know people want to get involved, and that’s a great thing! Donating money now is the only way to help, as supplies are only useful when there’s the coordination to distribute them. Learn more about the “cash is best” policy in another blog post.)

Three ways to help those affected by the Nepal Earthquake:

  • GIVE: To help people affected by disasters big and small, visit Redcross.org or contact your local American Red Cross chapter.
  • MAP: To help with critical mapping efforts, visit http://tasks.hotosm.org. No experience is needed, just a computer and internet connection.
  • SHARE: Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the global Red Cross Twitter account and American Red Cross Facebook and Twitter posts.

Photos c/o Julie Bradley, IT/Telecoms volunteer