During our initial deployment to the Philippines, following typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, we worked in several areas across the Northern half of the island of Cebu. Our teams built communications infra-structure, provided communication services, ran medical clinics and trained several teams of local volunteers in first aid and medical skills. Out of all the lessons learned during this 4 month deployment one thing stood out from the rest: the need for the local population to become more prepared and resilient. The Philippines is a country that is battered by typhoons, earthquakes and volcanoes on a regular basis. As this is something that cannot be changed the best way to decrease the number of casualties following disasters is by enabling the population to be more prepared and to respond quicker and more efficiently.
One of the communities that we worked in stood out from the others, this was Arapal Camp. Arapal is located in a remote rural area south-west of the city of Bogo. The region is very poor and has almost no infra-structure or services. However Arapal Camp, under the guidance of US born Philippinos, has started a number of programs to empower the local community and allow them to become more resilient. They are running sustainable farming programs and livelihood training (carpentry, artisan crafts etc). They have also build a school for local children and are serving as a hub for the wider community for the ongoing rebuilding effort providing materials, labor and construction advice. The camp also has a central kitchen, a sawmill, pig & goat farm and serves as a religious center for the area with Sunday mass attracting up to 1000 people.
In short Arapal Camp is a community that wants to and *is* improving their own situation. They do not want to be dependent on aid and roll from one disaster to another.
To assist this great community, Disaster Tech Lab has decided to provide technical/communications & medical expertise and equipment. Earlier this year we installed a satellite dish as well as a number of WiFi access points providing internet access to the main building. We also ran a number of medical clinics and more importantly provided First Aid and CPR training to a team of local medical volunteers that we set up. Having a reliable source of communications greatly enhances the communities resiliency and preparedness while the medical training and supplies provided by Disaster Tech Lab have already proven their worth in a community which was hours away from any form of medical aid.
Disaster Tech Lab has now decided to return to Arapal to continue the project we started and to make the community sully self-supporting in communications and medical needs. During our 10 day mission in late October to early December we plan to complete the following tasks:
- Install a 3G internet backhaul into the location.
- Extend internet access via WiFi to the whole camp/village.
- Install a number of VoIP phones allowing incoming and outgoing phone communication.
- Train local volunteers in maintaining the computer network equipment.
- Provide refresher training for the local medical response team.
- Run medical clinics in surrounding communities providing first aid and pre-hospital care.
- Carry out a medical assessment for the region and share with national authorities.
- Establish a permanent local medical clinic.
- Provide medical supplies and equipment for above clinic.
The overall effect of this mission will be that the wider community will have access to communication services which will be more resilient than the unreliable services currently offered by the telecoms companies. Not only will this allow them to communicate better following a disaster but the internet access will greatly improve the quality of their livelihood training programs as well as the children’s education in the school.
As part of our increased capacity we have set up a separate organization to handle all future medical deployments. Keeping with our ethos this organization is called “Disaster Medics”. The team for Disaster Medics will deploy together with the Disaster Tech Lab team on this upcoming mission.
The medical training as well as the equipment and supplies are invaluable as a in these type of rural communities a large number of people still end up either dying or incurring livelong disabilities due to the non-existent medical care. For Arapal the nearest doctor is 2.5 hours away and most people can’t even afford to go. The training and medical supplies we delivered earlier this year has already been put to good use on several occasion given urgently needed aid to people with injuries or illnesses.
Donations are very much appreciated and can be made securely online via the following link: http://www.gofundme.com/ep1qak