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Tuesday 19 June 2012

Academy recruits 14 Response Team members
Academy recruits 14 Response Team members New SRT members Michael Lee (US), John Levine (UK) and Lars Klungreseth (NO) undergoing training in southwest England, June 2012.

On 9-17 June, fourteen candidates undertook nine tough days of intensive training at ShelterBox's International Academy for Disaster Relief in Cornwall, UK, to become ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members.

SRT members are individuals from all walks of life who deliver ShelterBoxes to families made homeless by disasters worldwide. They are volunteers who choose to drop everything at a moment's notice to head to disaster zones. However, to become an SRT member is no easy feat. They have to undergo rigorous training before they are qualified to deliver emergency disaster relief.

The SRT pre-deployment training course in June was the final step in the selection process for the fourteen candidates, having gone through an interview and a three-day Representatives course.

It was a global affair with the fourteen new SRT members coming from USA, the Netherlands, Norway and UK.

Fiona McElroy is a communications professional living in London. She successfully completed the course and is proud to be the first SRT member from Northern Ireland. We talked to Fiona about how she found the training.

SRT member Fiona McElroy demonstrating her communications skills in the training with ShelterBox Communications and Web Manager and SRT member Danny Whear (UK).

Where are you from? I'm originally from (a town called Holywood, near Belfast in) Northern Ireland but live and work in London.

What made you want to become an SRT member? I've wanted to undertake some kind of humanitarian focused work for a very long time but was unable to commit to long-term placements overseas. A friend who is working in Afghanistan told me about ShelterBox a year ago and when I read more about the charity, the concept of delivering a box with life saving aid struck me as so simple but effective. Reading the stories of past deployments and SRT members was the clincher... I knew that was what I wanted to aim for.

Was the course as you imagined it to be? The course exceeded all my expectations. It was physically demanding and mentally challenging and I think replicated pretty well some of the pressure I should expect on deployment. It was packed full of great tips too which was a bonus.

Without giving too much away, what was your biggest challenge you experienced? One element I was weaker on was my navigation but following the course, I feel much more confident in being able to lead a team with a map and compass. The biggest challenge for me was handling team dynamics and not knowing what would happen when working with complete strangers. Ultimately, the focus has to be on remaining professional and getting the job done.

What was the best part about the course? The biggest challenge was also the best part of the course. I met and worked with some truly talented, brilliant people and I'd be happy to work with them again. It's a privilege to be part of a team that has the same objective, looks out for each other and can still laugh a lot, even when the going gets tough.

Do you feel prepared for deployment? I learned a huge amount on the course, which was fantastic. Mentally, I feel ready to be deployed once I get all my jabs but I'm also a little apprehensive as there will always be an element of not knowing what will happen and where. Also the nine days really impressed upon me just how immense the responsibility is of allocating ShelterBoxes in a disaster and how that should never be underestimated.

To find out more about the ShelterBox International Academy for Disaster Relief please visit their website.
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