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Emergency Relief Training

November 17, 2011

I recently attended a n emergency relief training course in Switzerland that was a wonderful experience!  First, I had a beautiful week in Paris with my cousin, seeing the sights and spending valuable time with her!  The visit to Switzerland was AMAZING.  The week-long course was definitely a great experience.  There were 31 other participants representing 20 nations!  We all had different professions, from doctors to nurses, to administration, to architects, to photographer to public health (only me!).  It was great!  The course included many lectures throughout the week about management cross-culturally, people management, project management, security, logistics, about the organization’s history, values, mission, and vision, headquarter operations, etc. In addition to the lectures, we had a series of simulations (which could happen at any moment) where the headquarter staff and previously deployed staff dressed up and created 3rd world, emergency response-type scenarios that we encountered in groups – my group had 6 participants, a facilitator, and the CEO of the organization was also a participant in the course and he was in my group!  He is a lovely, humble guy that was very funny and kind.  What a privilege!  Simulations were based on the overall story that we as a rapid response team were going into a country with political unrest and fighting and 5 years of drought, causing internally displaced camps to spring up in the urban centers of the dry flat lands of a fictional country.  Simulation activities and events included: lessons on being culturally sensitive and appropriate while dining in nationals’ homes, building a tent blindfolded, radio communication tests, our residence building was bombed and overtaken by the rebel army in the middle of the night causing us to evacuate and flee at 2am, changing a car tire at midnight, being woken up at 5am to the Muslim call to prayer REALLY LOUD, going through border control, check points, and immigration offices to get our fake visas to enter into the fake country, dealing with “maffia”-like people to exchange money, negotiating prices for accommodation, buying a car in a foreign country, hiking for 8 hours to get to the IDP camps, doing a rapid assessment of the situation, writing a project proposal and budget, qualitative interviews, being ambushed by robbers in the woods and having bags put over our heads (several times), being held at gun point, being kidnapped in our vehicle and dropped off on a highway somewhere, having our food stolen from us, coordination with UN agencies, etc…..  It was a VERY interesting week.  Each day, we debriefed our emotions, team work, personal performance, and general reflections and lessons learned with our small groups, and sometimes with all the participants in the course.  Each day started or ended with worship and devotions.  It was INCREDIBLE!  The course was about testing us in every way, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, pushing us to the edge to see how we’d react, and showing us what its sometimes like in the field in emergency response.  I learned so much about myself, security, team work, my relationship with God, and what I want to do with my life.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane McEwan permalink
    January 5, 2012 8:08 am

    I enjoyed reading about your training in Switzerland. I noticed you liked a webpage I posted on Facebook. You showed up as a friend of Alex’s. Alex didn’t describe this training, he only posted photos, so it was nice to hear about it. Sounds like quite a week. I hope you don’t encounter all those types of problems in the field. I also looked at you photos in Mozambique. Those were lovely. It is heartening to see that good people like Alex and you are working to help others.

    • January 5, 2012 6:03 pm

      Jane,
      Thank you for your message! It was quite a week! And the closer I get to heading to South Sudan, the more I am questioning my motives and intent. Its scary to think about what could happen, especially not knowing the good outcomes. I know the bad risks, but I don’t know what the good outcomes will be…I’m praying for the Lord’s strength and for a renewed passion for being His hands and His feet.
      -Lee

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