While theory was important it was unanimously felt that practically learning was an amazing experience. There were 3 days of simulation; where the group was split into two teams and given disaster situations to which they had to respond. We had to divide our team according to abilities and careers, such as pharmacists, doctors, to those who could perform First aid, while the Project Coordinator and I the media personnel multi-tasked from crowd control to triage. The project co-coordinator and I had the hardest jobs as while the others got to at least sit during their jobs, we didn’t for even one minute!
After the first five minutes, we all forgot that we were in a simulation, the influx of patients who had to see the doctor, from scratches, to changing “aches” by the patients minute to minute and curious bystanders who wandered in at a moment and even successfully robbed stethoscopes and even the radio communication system at one point. Worth mentioning is that while we acted, the LandsAid trainers expressed their grief so brilliantly that it made me momentarily speechless, rather than respond instinctively, as if the horrors they’d seen were alive right before their eyes. Interrupting myself from responding to deal with triage was distressing because on the one hand I had a lady telling me about the loss of everything from children, husband to home, and on the other hand trauma patients, needing immediate attention.
The highlights were when the Governor (Dick) from LandsAid trainer wore a clack shalwar kameez with an imperial air that all such officials usually have, wanting protocol , to bypass security and demanding tea as if he was bestowing favors on the International Aid workers who were there volunteering to serve his people. Also worth mentioning was the feudal lord, who kept ranting about not taking ‘permission’ to set up the mobile clinic on his flood-devastated land. To which our project coordinator aptly responded, ‘We’re here to help your people and your land isn’t running anywhere, it’ll be here even after we do our job”.
The cherry on top was when we as an international team almost fell into the trap of hijackers, because we assumed the call was from the Headquarters without demanding the call sign, but some quick thinking by Sana saved the entire team.
From anti-government demonstrations which compromised our neutrality because of inviting the governor into our clinic rather than holding the meeting at a different place, to realizing that Dick actually wanted tea, when I handed him an empty cup he exclaimed, “I want Tea! I think I’m a very good actor -but I wanted tea. In, reality”.
As a multiplier I definitely wish to see this effort spread to high schools and universities because as we saw in ’05 it was the youth that were first responders and their spirit and dedication that carried them through three consecutive day and nights of rescue & relief work. Arming them with knowledge would be the best form of mobilization.