2 minute readDisaster, International
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Blown Away: A Volunteer Story from Nepal

By Glen and Julie Bradley, American Red Cross IT/Telecoms disaster volunteers currently in Nepal

My little yellow tent sailed off the cliff where I had slept the night before.  I couldn’t stake it down because of the rockface, so I left my duffle inside as an anchor against the strong winds whipping up from the steep Himalayan valley. It was all replaceable; clothes, dehydrated food and sleeping gear. All the important stuff was right next to me in my backpack: satphone, radio, toilet paper….

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Ewan Coldicott and I were out in the field as part of a joint American/New Zealand Red Cross IT/Telecoms Emergency Response Unit (ERU). When I heard about my tent I looked down the mountain and kept on about our business. With all the serious disaster surrounding us, the loss of my tent seemed pretty mild. To get to this remote mountainous area of Nepal, we had driven at walking pace up a narrow, dusty road with steep drop-offs, stopping only for a landslide which partially blocked the road and to check on our sensitive equipment strapped to the roof of our car. Our destination was Dhunche, a remote village high in the northern mountains where we were going to support a 35 person Canadian Red Cross medical unit perched on a narrow strip of rare, flat land. This Red Cross unit was the only medical facility in the region and needed contact with the outside world to do their job.

Along the way we passed destroyed villages waving strings of colorful Buddhist prayer flags. Their baked brick homes built on a ridge line had literally crumbled during the earthquake. Survivors had salvaged and gathered what they could and were sleeping outdoors or under raised blue tarps with the Red Cross symbol.

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Finding a clear line of sight to the satellite among the steep mountains was a challenge. We finally locked on and got the row of green lights—success. At this point, the lack of useable living space turned into an advantage for us. As we hammered nails and strung our cables, we realized it was all so compact that we could cover the hospital as well as the Red Cross medical personnel sleeping quarters with one large wifi antenna. As Ewan explained the system to the Red Cross team, a villager ran up the mountain path carrying my tent and duffle over his head. “Auntie, auntie, your tent!”  Now we were all smiling; the Red Cross hospital workers had Internet and communication with the outside world and I had my tent back.


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Julie explains the Ruckus wifi antenna to a Canadian Red Cross doctor and nurse.

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.

For more information about our response on the ground in Nepal, please visit www.redcross.org/nepal.

The VSAT satellites installed by Julie and Glen Bradley as part of  a joint American & New Zealand RC IT-Telecommunication Emergency Response Unit (ERU) deployment provides critical connectivity to various Red Cross medical teams from the Canadian Red Cross, the Norwegian Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross.  This capacity ensures a communications life-line to the outside world.  Because of the internet access established the Canadian Red Cross was able to capture this video from this morning’s 7.4 Magnitude Earthquake in Nepal. For more information about our response on the ground in Nepal, please visit www.redcross.org/nepal