By Angelo Spencer-Smith, a member of the ShelterBox Response Team to Madagascar.
In mid-March, I began my first deployment with ShelterBox to help families in Madagascar that were hit by Cyclone Giovanna.
On day one, we get up early and travel for one or two hours by truck over rough tracks – bumped and bruised, to arrive at a river crossing. This is as far as our big truck will take the main supply of tents, so the rest has to be offloaded by hand and transferred into our vehicle and/or boat.
The crossing is on a pontoon made out of barrels and old oil drums with hand cut wooden planks placed on top and lashed together. It is pulled by hand by teams of villagers with ropes from each side, and moved into position with long bamboo poles. Getting on and off with our trucks is difficult as the small jetty has been washed away by the river after all the excess rain from the cyclone. We have to use reinforced planks to land directly on the beach.
After our crossing, we drive for about another hour to an outlying village near the coast, where part of the team starts to distribute tents in partnership with the head of the village. The other half of the team takes a small boat, for about another hour to reach even more remote villages. This is the only way to reach these villages – without this level of effort, they would not get anything.
These small remote communities on the coast that bore the full force of Giovanna are the worst damaged, but they are now slowly starting the process of rebuilding their lives. We heard stories of people gathering together in their strongest building to ride out the storm, and returning to their devastated homes. The ShelterBox tents will give them a secure temporary home while they undertake the difficult task of rebuilding their own homes. Priority is placed on the old, disabled, and single mothers.
I feel a sense of privilege being able to be on the front line, where donations are transformed from all over the world into making a real tangible difference. It’s amazing to think of the good will being channeled from people all over the world.
Editor’s Note: Adapted from ShelterBox’s news page. Read about the project partner agreement signed between Rotary International and ShelterBox that will allow the two organizations to collaborate more closely to provide relief to disaster survivors.