Unexpected lessons from my disaster relief experience

Yannis Comino with ShelterBox aid supplies.

By Yannis Comino

Over my summer break at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, I decided to trade in the warmer weather of Australia for an English winter. Why, you might ask, would I do such a thing? Well, the only way I can explain it is — I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. During my New Generations Service Exchange at the headquarters of ShelterBox International in Truro, Cornwall, I gained priceless insight and first-hand experience in disaster relief management.

Both my mother and father are members of the Rotary Club of Morisset, and their club’s constant promotion of ShelterBox gave me the idea to seek the exchange. I am currently working on a bachelor’s in Development Studies with the hope of pursuing a career in the aid sector through either community development or disaster management, so I was thrilled when my exchange was approved.

As I walked through the doors of ShelterBox headquarters, I was greeted by a youthful, vibrant, and enthusiastic team. I was impressed by their morning meetings, as they sit in front of four large television screens analyzing the current deployments and tracking global news of the day.

Yannis stands next to the “Rotary Wall” of club banners at the ShelterBox Disaster Relief Centre.

My task was to dive through post-deployment reports to identify contacts. Reading through these reports and generating a contact list the organization can use in future deployments, I got a real taste for the work they do. I was able to work alongside, and gain a deeper understanding of, the affiliates programme. This work was fascinating, but the greatest experience was sitting in on meetings and working will fellow colleagues who share my humanitarian virtues.

As I look back over my six-week immersion in disaster relief operations, and the logistical conundrums that must be resolved for any successful aid deployment, I am more certain than ever of my desired career path. 

I truly believe this was the beginning of a lifetime of experiences. This kind of work will enable me to merge my two passions: helping others and exploring new destinations and cultures. My exchange has already led me to become more involved with the Morisset Rotary Club. I shall be going to Tanzania  later this year to help undertake a project to provide needed equipment for a hospital in the city of Morogoro.

I extend a big thanks to the Rotary Club of Truro Boscawen, who hosted me for my six-week exchange, and the Rotary club back home for kick-starting this adventure. But my biggest thanks has to go to Jane and Andrew Parker who put up with a stranger staying in their house for six weeks. It is a good thing I head back as the Australian summer draws to a close, as I dare not get back into a swimsuit after eating all of Jane’s amazing food. This New Generations Service Exchange has ignited my flame for humanitarian service, one I hope will continue to burn brightly for many years to come.

Learn more about New Generations Service Exchanges and read more about Rotary’s partnership with ShelterBox 

6 thoughts on “Unexpected lessons from my disaster relief experience

  1. Pingback: Rotary and ShelterBox inspire young volunteers to take action – Rotary Service in Action

  2. Great to hear of Yannis’s experience. a brilliant way to spend a summer break, albeit in an English winter. I too am planning to drop in on SB HQ in May this year, but only for a day. I am looking forward to meeting all the team.


  3. Pingback: Unexpected lessons from my disaster relief experience – Rotary Club of Ginninderra

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