Monday, 9 January 2012

Why we do what we do.....


To date blogs have generally been a light hearted look at logistics, I am still amused that the most popular blog is the logistics of my packed lunch.  Today though I want to tell you why we do what we do. So let me start with a story:
Haitian National Flag
Cholera has just broken out in Haiti and as Country Director I find myself in a rush to get 8 Jeeps out of the port in Port au Prince.  The agency I was working for was distributing teams throughout the country, nursing teams, surveillance teams and janitorial teams clearing biotoxic waste.  My CEO, Sean, had flown in especially to add some weight to the proceedings of clearing vehicles.  We stood in the port on a Sunday morning with various officials who had been compelled to attend but remained courteous, a rag tag group of internationals had been rounded to drive the vehicles back in convoy, Americans, Brits, Costa Ricans, Haitians.  We sat under the shade of a tree waiting for the extraordinary process to take place each sipping from water bottles feeling the heat of the morning sun beat back up at us from the bleached hard-core laid at the disasters onset to increase the port’s standing area.  This is the first time some of the team have been out of the IDP camp for weeks.  The normality of the situation makes us feel a little giddy, waiting with nothing to do gives us a little time to make small talk; aid worker small talk…bowel movements, days spent in the same shirt, the idea of a cold beer.  On the other side of the fence row upon row of vehicle ours nowhere to be seen.  We joke about cutting the wire and breaking the whole lot out, cracked lips break into broad grins at the thought of releasing all this aid.
Sean and I are called forward and get to walk behind the wire to identify the vehicles, 8 of the most well equipped 4x4s I have ever laid eyes on and for this Chrysler Jeep get a name check.  Their donation was much appreciated, they arrived on time on spec and with no need for fanfare and even now that makes me feel just a little bit emotional.  The arrival and the agreement to waive any rights to fanfare allowed us to spirit teams off to the north to deliver much needed medical services.  The vehicles are ours and keys issued, tired, dirty aid workers give off spontaneous whoops of joy, spraying precious drinking water across the dusty windshields.  The team deserved this joy, but for me the logistician came to the service as I looked around this customs vehicle park the dust covered vehicles had a gloomy poignancy that echoed the disaster struck Haitian capital they had come to serve.  Emergency vehicles, rock crushers for rubble, NGO 4x4s all sat silent.  Many of these bore messages from their senders, “from the Rotarians of Springfield”, “Lutheran Church of Dusseldorf”, from mosques, from communities and companies yet all sat silent. Beyond the wire of this compound the container park, with row up on row of 20’ and 40’ foot boxes their contents baking in the now noon day sun.
Sean took out the lead vehicle and I took the rear with my wife at the wheel, which afforded me just a brief moment to look back and think that it shouldn’t be like this.  I’d like to be dramatic and say that I took some vow that this would never happen again but I didn’t.  I reflected on the ideas that have rumbled on in my head regarding The Logistics Project for 6 years and felt maybe now I should break out and do it.  I wanted to make a way to help the little players and donors in any emergency make their donation effective, to be the logistics department to the masses of small communities that make sacrifices to send aid only for it to sit in a port unused.  I wanted to make a way that didn’t hamper or clutter the machinery of the bigger agencies.  So that is why we do what we do.  We consult and train  prior to rapid onset disasters building skills, systems and relationships with both small community groups and larger NGO actors.  We seek to build leaders in humanitarian logistics practice wherever we work.  The funds we accrue from this go towards our action projects The Disaster Relief Unit (DRU)and The Geographic Information Mapping Project (GIMP).    DRU’s aim is to have expert logisticians on the ground in any emergency within 12-24 hours, whilst aid agencies are assessing the needs of the population we will work with others to ensure that the life blood materials are moving through the system promptly and effectively.  GIMP when required will give support to GIS mapping agencies providing up to date information for emergency cartographers.
That is why we do what we do, we believe it helps.

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