European Volunteers for Response of Emergencies in the Caribbean

About Annalisa Bergantini

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So far Annalisa Bergantini has created 6 entries.

Thank you NaDMA, thank you Grenada

03/04/2014 by Annalisa Bergantini – Anpas

It seems like we left Europe a month ago, but it’s only ten days.

It’s always difficult in such intense missions, when a day lasts 16 hours, to  remember the details you lived, that talk you had with somebody. Sometimes you don’t remember a name, sometimes you don’t remember a face anymore.

But you feel like you have the pieces collected here and there, and at a certain  point they start to outline something that is so much clearer than only ten days ago.

 

In Grenada we’ve been sponges, absorbing and absorbing from the people we met in the communities. We’ve been a river flowing together with the children running up to the hill for the Tsunami drill.

We observed trying not invade any space, trying not to “sell dreams” or “copy and paste”, as our team leader Markus like to say, our models and mental schemes.

And we discovered opened doors, people talking with us so frankly, showing their needs, their difficulties, but also their desire to make a change and to be the change. Not only when a disaster strikes, but even more when nothing happens, during the so called peace times. We found a sort of hunger for exchange of ideas and development of new ones, and sharing of tools.

We found a strong committment from the National Disaster Management Agency, from all its staff. They spent with us entire days, coming with us to meet the communities, sitting in the office to discuss future activities for the incoming teams, and identyfying their own needs, as the National Disaster Management Agency. «If you strenght the agency, you strenght the whole community» told us Ms. Mauryn at the end of our last meeting.

Words that made

Caribe Wave 2014 – Tsunami exercise

28/03/2014 by Laura Audenino – Italian Red Cross

Run, run for life!

A great eighth Richter scale degree earthquake, with the Portugal as epicenter, generate a tsunami that is expected to strikes on Caribbean and Grenada between eight hours, crossing the Atlantic ocean with the destructive power of his 100 feet and more high waves.

Is the beautiful spice island doomed?

With this scenario, that it seems taken from a movie screenplay, our third day on the island begins and fortunately all of this is just a fake. “Caribe wave 2014” is a major international exercise, to which we will attend as observers.

Everyone is feeling high, and we are all excited to start this new experience on the field.
A van will take us to our next stop, the airport. Here there is the MET office,  where the alert messages will be transmitted. There are two scenarios: Evacuation of a school building, populated by about 400 childrens Evacuation of a rum distillery (this sounds good!)

Clock ticks and the way to run is long, so after a kindly explaination by the MET office’s Chief we depart from the airport, heading to the other side of the island, crossing the mountains and the forest in the interior, “First paved rollercoaster I have ever seen” says Markus after a lot of curves, making all of us laugh loud.

Arriving next to the school, where a police office directs the traffic, we spread out into two groups so I and some of us can go ahead towards the rum distillery, my final target.

Here we are!

Sugar cane smell is in the air, everywhere there are lots of stuff, a man fuels with firewood the fiery furnace, who is connected to some boilers. It looks like

Meeting with volunteers from St. Andrew community

25/03/2014 by Annalisa Bergantini – Anpas

Driving almost an hour crossing hills and a forest so green, that I’ve never seen anything like that.

And a landscape that looks like those ones that we only saw in documentaries about dinosaurs.

Yesterday we met the local volunteers of the St. Andrew community, about one hour by car from the capital, St. George.

We met around 25 volunteers, members of a recently established subcommittee for disaster response, coordinated by Francis, the so called district coordinator. The district coordinator, in Grenada disaster response system, is the person responsible for the coordination of community groups involved in providing the first response in case of a disaster. He is mainly in charge of organizing trainings and, very important, keeping them motivated.

Meeting the volunteers, we tried to understand what are their main needs, and after an initial but normal suspicion, the ice has been broken and many interesting things came out.

A young girl, 30 years old, told us that one of the main needs is to raise the very basic awareness of the natural hazards that this community faces: tsunamis, earthquakes, the marine volcano, hurricanes, flash floods, landslides.

When he’s father was 8, a very strong hurricane hit their district and destroyed everything. Many years later, in 2004, hurricane Ivan hit again the island. «I didn’t even know what a hurricane is, we lack the basic knowledge about the risks that we have to face» told us the girl.

«Kids at school are now receiving these informations, but the rest of the population, not going to school anymore, is not informed. We need an awareness campaign to spread these very simple informations!».

So I thought about the importance of the historical memory of disasters, especially at the local level. I

“Good morning, darling”

24/03/2014 by Annalisa Bergantini – Anpas

Cultural awareness tip N° 1

When you’re walking on the street and you cross somebody, even if it’s 6.30 am and you’re not still really awake, they say to you “good morning” or simply “morning”.

And then it happens that somebody stops, looks at you and says «Happy day!».

So good morning and happy day to you.

Ready to go!

22/03/2014 by Annalisa Bergantini – Anpas

Few days ago, I heard again about the “Five Ws”: Who, What, When, Where, Why.

When has become closer and closer, day after day, every time I opened the EvreCa website and I’ve seen the scaring but funny countdown published on it. “Passport renewal: done. Plug adapter: bought. Summer clothes: found”. Hundreds of documents in my laptop and a permanent headache since few days.

«Where are you going, aunt? »

«America, but not where people play football… Which countries do you know in America? »

«I know Mexico, aunt, because when I’ll be a paleontologist I want to go to the peninsula of Jucatan, where the dinosaurs lived».

«Ok, so if you look a bit on the right, in the map, there you can find Barbados and Grenada, two small islands in the Caribbean Sea. That sea of the pirates, Emanuele».

Somebody says that if you want to be sure that you explained something clearly, do it as you would explain it to a child. I don’t know if you, now, have understood where these two small islands are. But my nephew did.

What? We started with the training, mid February, and since then we never stopped. Many tasks identified, not enough time to work on all of them. Various contexts to assess and many stakeholders to meet. The big responsibility to give precise feebacks and inputs to the other two teams, Bravo and Charlie, who will be deployed after our mission. «The project depends on your assessment». Ok, fine, now we don’t really feel the pression!

And the unfocused picture has become clearer, day after day.

Who? Why?

It’s late and I have to catch a plain, so maybe “why” we’re doing this, and “who” we are, is better explained by

The Blue Path of the EvreCa! Project

THE BLUE PATH OF THE EVRECA! PROJECT

19/02/2014 by Annalisa Bergantini – Anpas

And then you wear the blue t-shirt and you’re proud to be part of this big thing.

You’re proud the be European and it doesn’t matter too much if you’re a volunteer from the Romanian Red Cross, from Anpas or from Malteser.

It could sound senseless or strange, but it’s been a good thing to start our activities – the pre-deployment training – not wearing our sending organizations uniforms.

We’re not here to demonstrate that one organization is better than the other.

We are here to get there. We’re here to learn how to work together – people from different countries, backgrounds, ages – and how to mix our colours.

And that blue make us feel we’re all on the same boat. We share basic values, with many differences but with the same spark in the eyes when we start talking about “dates, tasks, plans of action” and, of course, about our previous experiences.

For many of us, the colours and shapes of our sending organization’s logos don’t just outline a mere drawing, a flag that we might change from time to time.

Each logo means to us holidays spent working for people in need, week-ends far from our families, a daughter’s birthday missed for the second time and the evening of a Saint Valentine’s Day spent on the train with another volunteer – to the happiness of our partner – coming back from a training course.

To wear that blue t-shirt is an honour, to serve the European Union as volunteers is a responsibility.

So this time we will easily put apart our organizations’ flags and national colours, proud and hopefully ready to be European Aid Volunteers.