Wednesday 12 September 2012
Help in the field in NigerFlooding in Niger near the capital of Niamey, August 2012.
A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) has been working with Rotary, various aid agencies and the Government in Niger to assess the need for shelter in the capital Niamey, following heavy flooding that has left tens of thousands of families homeless.
Gaston Kaba is one person who has been helping ShelterBox respond to the disaster in the African country in numerous ways including acting as the SRT's guide, translator and driver.
'We would not have progressed so much without Gaston's assistance,' said SRT member Laura Jepson (UK) now in Niger. 'Whatever you need he will be able to do it. He's done everything from driving us, translating, arranging visas, which is not easy, and he is extremely well connected.'
Gaston was born in Senegal but moved with his father to Niger at the age of seven and has lived there ever since. Now aged 71, he continues to live a full life following his winding career path.
Rotarian Gaston Kaba who has helped ShelterBox on previous deployments to Niger as well as this one.
He spent several years studying and teaching in Los Angeles and New York in the United States, and also in England. He attained further jobs in the Civil Service, USAID and Peace Corps as an Associate Director, before he retired in 2008.
'My father was strict but taught me good values, to always be vigorous and hardworking,' said Gaston.
Hating being idle, Gaston began volunteering his time for various nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) around the world and continues to.
'It's a pleasure to help people and see it making a difference.'
In 1988, Gaston became a Rotarian. For the last three years he has been Assistant Governor for District 9100, which incorporates 14 West African countries. It is through the Rotary network that he became aware of ShelterBox.
A dam broke in Agadez in northern Niger in 2009 flooding one third of the city. French Rotaractor Marie Mariott, who is now also an SRT volunteer, brought the disaster to ShelterBox's attention and then contacted Gaston's Rotary Club, Niamey Croix du Sud, for assistance.
Subsequently ShelterBox deployed and Gaston assisted the SRT during its response to the disaster, and did so again in 2010. He therefore did not hesitate to contact the international disaster relief charity when flooding occurred along the Niger River just weeks ago with detailed information he had obtained from the United Nations Agency for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
'I knew they [ShelterBox] were the only ones to help. Their rapid response and sense of urgency has always impressed me. The ShelterBox Response Teams are very efficient, very professional, and most importantly they know what to do to get the job done!’
'Always support them'
Gaston explained why he continues to help ShelterBox:
'We have a saying in Niger - your guest is your god – and you have to do whatever you can to help them. It is your duty especially as a Rotarian. And when your guests have come from around the world to help your people, it is a pleasure to support ShelterBox’s work in any way I can. ShelterBox can ask me any time to help. I will always support them.'
SRT member Mike Freeman (US) has worked closely with Gaston during all three of ShelterBox’s responses to flooding in Niger:
‘From logistics and transportation, to translation, opening up his contacts and networks and helping us cut through red tape, Gaston’s support is invaluable and makes an otherwise difficult situation workable. He always finds the time and resources to respond to every request that we make.
'True gentleman and friend'
‘Furthermore, he is a fascinating person with seemingly boundless energy, particularly for a man of 71 years old, a true gentleman and a friend. I could only wish for a ‘Gaston’ in every deployment situation.’
ShelterBox cannot do its work without the help from people like Gaston on deployments around the world. It is through these personal relationships and friendships that we can help more families in need as effectively and efficiently as possible. Thanks to you all.