Greyshirt stories: A sherpa’s tale

A landslip from the Anak Krakatau volcano eruption on 22 December sent huge waves surging into the Sunda Strait without warning, killing at least 437 people and wrecking communities on the coastlines of western Java and south Sumatra.

As most of the UK prepared for Christmas with loved ones, a five person response team began packing kit bags and emergency equipment. Flying out on Christmas Day, the team was soon on the ground with in-country partner ACT.

One of our Greyshirts, Lizzie, had quite an unusual journey:

During the carol singing in my town centre on Christmas Eve, a friend asked me if I had been contacted by Team Rubicon to go to Indonesia.


My friend’s question was clearly the kiss of death because ten minutes later the phone went; it was TR. Could I deploy the following day, Christmas Day?

I had to say yes.

Packing was fairly easy as no last-minute shopping could be done. Thankfully, I am always fully jabbed up with immunisations and I’ve got a good stash of things I need to take stored under my spare bed.

The really tough thing was cancelling plans I had for Christmas and New Year with my boyfriend.

Greyshirt Lizzy and Dave hard at work in Sumur.

During the Lombok and Palu earthquakes in August and September, Team Rubicon was able to forge some strong working relationships, in particular with a local NGO called ACT — who were to be our partner in Sumur, a region of southern Sumatra that was hit particularly bad by the tsunami.

One of the Noah TREKKER water purifiers in action

It transpired that I was going to be the team sherpa for the journey. The four other team members were flying via Hong Kong to Jakarta.

I was going the strangest route, via Amsterdam, Detroit, Boston, Doha and finally Jakarta.

A total of over 25,000 air kilometres in one go.

Lizzie’s globe-trotting in the medium of a video.

The reason for my globetrotting was mission critical. Andy from Noah Water Systems in Detroit had four water purifiers that needed escorting to Indonesia.

So, after a whopping 50 hours and many airports, many time zones, many films later –and with an extra 100kg of kit– I arrived in Jakarta.

Greyshirt Lizzy with some of the community TRUK is working to help.

The trip wasn’t without its dramas, but thanks must go to JetBlue who allowed my mountain of excess baggage onto the flight from the US without any hefty charges, and couldn’t do enough to help me!

On arrival in Jakarta, I was met by the smiling faces of the rest of the team, ready for a long onward drive, which brought my travel time up to 60 hours.

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Team Rubicon UK has an advance party in the air on route to Mozambique in the wake of Cyclone Idai.

With estimated affected people now in the millions, we anticipate that our response teams will be working to get aid and water into the most remote, cut-off communities and using our disaster mapping capability to assist our partners.