Life after a disaster as an Ericsson Response volunteer
Editor's note: As part of a series celebrating Ericsson Response – our volunteer staff program that supports the work of humanitarian agencies in disaster zones by installing and maintaining internet connections – we are happy to feature a guest post by developer Tamas Zádori. My first mission with Ericsson Response was when Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines in November 2013. The storm caused the deaths of more than 7,000 people, and it devastated many of the country’s low-lying coastal farming and fishing communities, leaving hundreds of thousands of houses in rubble and half a million people displaced.
My team was the second from Ericsson Response to deploy to the Philippines. We arrived a month after the typhoon had struck, and we flew out to the affected areas and could see the damage from the plane. Trees were broken in half like toothpicks, boats were washed up on the shore, cars were overturned, there were piles of rubble and destroyed buildings. It was not a nice scene, and I’ll never forget that first impression of how life can be after a disaster.
At the start, it was tough to adjust to the sweltering humid heat, a lack of washing facilities, and accommodation in thin tents located next to noisy generators. But after a few days, we all adjusted and got on with our job, which was setting up and maintaining Ericsson’s WIDER (Wireless Local Area Network in Disaster Emergency Response) solution at numerous humanitarian aid agency hubs in the disaster zone. Once upon a time, this kind of disaster relief was done without connectivity. But now it’s extremely important, and the aid workers are dependent on the internet to get aid where it needs to go.
My work in the Philippines – and in Nepal last year following the devastating earthquake there – did help me develop my technical and problem-solving skills in particular. But I’ve been most inspired by the people I’ve met, particularly the local people in the Philippines. Despite the destruction, they were so positive and made it such a nice atmosphere for us to work in. At one remote village where I had been for a few days and had only had dry food to eat, a local eatery reopened, and they welcomed me in and fed me. Later on, children arrived and started singing Christmas songs.
It has all made me step back and reevaluate how I do things and what my real needs are. We all sometimes complain about bad food but it's important to be reminded that some people don't have any food at all.