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Tuesday 13 March 2012

Madagascar: My first deployment
Madagascar: My first deployment Angelo Spencer-Smith in Madagascar.

‘Today is half way through my first deployment with ShelterBox to help families in Madagascar that were hit by Cyclone Giovanna. I thought I would share my experiences of what it is like to actually deliver ShelterBox tents and supplies to individuals that really need them.

‘Over the last few days we have been getting up early and then travelling for one or two hours by 4x4 trucks over rough tracks - bumped and bruised, we arrive at a river crossing. This is as far as our big truck can take the main supply of tents, so the rest will have 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 recently 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. As we cross we have to position ourselves carefully in order to keep the platform balanced.

‘After our crossing, we then drive for about another hour to an outlying village near the coast, where part of the team start 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.

Watch a video entry from Angelo above or online here.

‘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 hear 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 to rebuild their own homes. The old, disabled and single mothers are some of the groups that are being prioritised.

‘I feel a sense of privilege every day to be able to be here at the front line, where donations are transformed from all over the world into making a real tangible difference to people’s lives! I hope to be able to explain this to them when I get home, how valuable their contribution has been. It’s amazing to think of the global good will from fellow human beings which is being channelled.

‘Language is difficult, so I have learned some key phrases in Malagasy, words like ‘good’ to help during the tent demonstrations to highlight when a tent peg or guy rope is set correctly. This often makes them laugh, probably due to the way I say it, but in a way this helps us all bond together to get the job done, signs and gestures help with the rest. ‘Thumbs up’ works well too. Another important phrase that I have had to learn that I was not expecting, was a way to say ‘you are welcome’ to reply when people thank us for the tents and our efforts. This is a very touching moment.

‘After working though the heat of the day (a habit we learned very quickly is whenever we stop, we find shade!), we start our return journey, checking any tents that we can on the way back to make sure that they are set up correctly, and see how well the people are moving in.’
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