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Learning Skills for Humanitarian Missions

31 May 2018

Volunteer Induction Programme – 18-19 November 2017 This is potentially the first humanitarian workshop I have ever attended. I attended this because I know in the future, I will be travelling and saving lives in a dangerous situation which revolves humanitarian work, but the biggest obstacle I had was “I don’t know anything about humanitarian missions” This was an event that was an “exposure” course for me. I signed up as a volunteer to be a victim in a disaster where Mercy Malaysia is called to be deployed for a mission. Through this induction course, I learnt a lot from the lecture to have a general overview of what a humanitarian mission is like. Following this is the sphere guidelines to humanitarian missions and to have the basic human needs to survive. The part that I learnt the most is the assessment of the village, mobile clinic and the disaster relief. During the assessment of the villages, we were all split into different NGOs and were given x amount of money to plan and to give relief to the villages according to their needs. All of us thought that it is a competition between all NGOs. Little did we know, it was supposed to be a collaboration between all NGO. We realised this at the end of the assessment when everyone was so desperate that we started to call for help from each other. After we sat down and discussed, finally everything fell into place. Needs were given in time, everyone had a job and as a “humanitarian body” the villagers had all their needs met and finally we completed the mission.

The lesson learnt from this training is that, although we can be a single unit of NGO, we need to communicate with other NGOs, so that we know what they are supporting, and what we can do to fill into the bigger picture. In a real humanitarian mission, this is very true as no NGO in the world could work without the other.

On the second day, we learnt communication skills using the walkie-talkie, setting up site tents and to deploy for missions during disasters. The activity that impacted me the most is the disaster relief where I was left at a place for hours and hours for people to come and be assessed. After long hours of being assessed, I knew the rescuers were in distress when they had to deal with people shouting, screaming, and shooting video for their news at the same time, attend to the sick, attend to the distressed patients and to transport the casualties. This was quite an eye opener where these people who came with good intentions of helping people with medical relief, must deal with the other challenges that comes along with it. From this, small experience that I have, I understood the importance of the clarity of each individual in a team and also the objective of the mission. So that when everyone is deployed, we are clear of what needs to be done and how to adapt to different situations. From this 2-day course, I learnt that we need to learn how to work together, not against each other to gain fame or power. It all boils down to why we do what we do. It is because we are all working for the same cause, which is to provide humanitarian support to those who need it. According to the sphere guidelines, everyone in this world has a right to live with dignity.

Basic Missions Training (BMT) – 29 March-1 April 2018 I knew I would love to volunteer to be deployed in missions in the future. In this Mercy BMT training, I learnt about disaster relief, mobile clinic, and assessment, which has integrated the core values of a humanitarian group. Leadership, clarity of the mission, and communication are crucial for each member. I was appointed to be the leader in my team; team Delta, on the first day and I was not ready for this kind of leadership. Because of my language barrier of having poor proficiency in Malay, communication was a problem with my team, understanding the instruction was a problem, and essentially being the leader was a problem because both parties were clueless of what the other was talking about. Even with the limited information, I can have a clear mindset and have multiple plans with different strategies, but it is useless if I have a breakdown in communication at any level in these kinds of teams. I particularly struggled from the information given during base camp briefing, especially when these information were crucial from the specificity of time to meet, route to use to reach the camp site, what to do in the camp site, and what to tell my team in the camp site.

Because this is a humanitarian mission, and even though we were split into different groups, we had to communicate with other groups so that we can properly be clear and mobilise together. I also learnt that in this situation, one leader must rise to oversee everything, to give orders and to give clear instructions so that everything will fall into place. We cannot be democratic to ask for opinions. There is no room for error, because if we do this, it will cost everyone’s lives in a real mission deployment.

In this BMT we were basically sleeping at a campsite where we must sleep with limited hours, take turn for sentry, look out for each other, cook for each other and to always have one goal in mind which is to provide medical relief. It was basically a mental military training without the hardship of physical conditioning. Throughout the programme, we had short briefings, short lectures, workshops and rest. During rest, we were to plan an escape plan, to delegate jobs to people and to make sure everyone was up to speed with the situation. It was like the American TV series of the Walking Dead. To survive. Bound to the secrecy of Mercy and the BMT training, I cannot go into specifics. But the overall experience is invaluable. Coming back to civilisation, although we were dirty, we had a sense of satisfaction of learning some life lessons that will take us further in our future careers. What more if this was a medical relief mission, there will be lives changed, saved and peace restored. After all, that is the main aim of becoming a doctor in the first place. Prepared by: Yuki Julius Ng We Yong, IMU Semester 8 Medical Student

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