Greyshirt Reflections: Deploying to Mozambique

Mike Kalvis is a Senior Contracts Surveyor for Wiltshire Council and one of our Greyshirts. He found out about Team Rubicon in 2017 from his local paper and decided to sign up in the hope of learning more skills and to meet like-minded people. Since completing the various courses, he has deployed to the Caribbean to help in the wake of Hurricane Irma and has also worked with other Team Rubicon volunteers to drive lorries for the charity Crisis at Christmas. 

When the call came out for volunteers to head to Mozambique to help with the Cyclone Idai disaster relief efforts, Mike stepped forward. Here, Mike shares is his experience of the deployment

‘In March this year Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique, destroying buildings and flooding hundreds of square miles of land near the coast. Villagers lost everything that they had and many were left clinging to trees and roofs to survive the muddy, crocodile infested water.As a trained volunteer I was given twenty-four hours’ notice to deploy – which was spent frantically arranging vaccinations, packing kit and finalising home and work arrangements. As a team of sixteen we flew first to Johannesburg and then on to the capital of Mozambique, Maputo, before finally arriving at the city of Beira, which had been in the path of the hurricane. We were briefed by colleagues who were already in country, and met the teams from the United Nations and World Food Programme who we would be working alongside. Our first tasks included restoring the water supply to a school in Beira, so that the kitchens could prepare meals for hungry, displaced families. 

We also visited local refugee camps where I used my expertise to advise on the provision of water and sanitary arrangements.

Unloading tarpaulins and much needed medical supplies

Life on the Ground

Team Rubicon’s unique skill is being able to deploy self-sufficiently, far away from large towns and main roads. Our training lets us help people in the most remote areas, who may have been overlooked by larger aid agencies. We were dropped by helicopter near the cut off riverside settlement of Busi which is dominated by an enormous, decaying sugar cane factory. We were billeted in a dilapidated mansion which was being swallowed up by the undergrowth. Working with local people we arranged for an airstrip to be prepared in the endless, flat, grassy landscape. All around there were signs of devastation caused by high winds, and every building showed a “high tide mark” from filthy water, ten feet from the ground. Children played excitedly and then watched in amazement as the first aircraft arrived with food, tarpaulins and cooking pots. We had organised for the only intact factory building to be repaired and cleaned so that we could store and prepare the aid. With the help of local drivers, we set off the next day in pick-up trucks to distribute these vital supplies.

I have really appreciated working alongside experienced military veterans with their wealth of skills, camaraderie and sense of fun. I loved camping for the night at a tented cholera hospital, chatting and reflecting on a day like no other: loading an ugly, decrepit soviet era helicopter with sacks of rice; flying to the isolated village of Manumicua to the delight of hungry families and carefully organising the distribution of aid to people who had felt forgotten by the outside world. Our most frightening moment was discovering a poisonous snake amongst our bedding and mosquito nets. It was quickly dispatched. Our relief was short lived when we saw a second snake, wriggling in the rucksack that my friend was wearing!

Watching aid come in by air to a landing strip the team had prepared

Thank You

I am grateful that my colleagues at Wiltshire Council support the disaster response work that Team Rubicon carries out for desperate people around the world. My manager had no hesitation in encouraging me to deploy and I am thankful to my colleagues who helped out in my absence.’

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