At TSF all staff members, from ICT specialists to accountants, have to experience the field at least once. It is one of the requirements when one gets hired: “You must be ready to integrate TSF’s emergency teams abroad and carry out missions in the context of humanitarian crises.” As Head of Communication and International Relations, I mainly work from the headquarters. But how can I truly communicate about TSF’s missions if I never go in the field?
I started to work for TSF in June 2018. After a rather quite summer where I had time to learn all about TSF, to set up my goals and to define strategies for the communication department, Typhoon Mankghut dangerously approached the north of Philippines around mid-September. I was warned to get ready to leave at any time. A few days later, I was landing in Manila with some of TSF’s ICT specialists and our satellite equipment.
After the typhoon, our Head of mission, met with the local authorities and network providers to make an assessment of the damages. They identified three regions of northern Luzon, severely hit by Mankghut: the municipalities of Itogon, Basco, and Adams. It was decided to form mixed teams of TSF, Vodafone Foundation and Smart Communications staff to go in these different locations and install satellite connections.
I was sent to Itogon, in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). Heavy rains following the typhoon caused deadly landslides in this very pour and mountainous area. One particularly buried hundreds of minors and their families who were living in a bunkhouse in Barangay Ucab. Our team was due to support relief operations by installing two satellites connections for the local government and organisations in the rescue center set up close by the accident, and in the evacuation and operation center, a few kilometers away, in Barangay Tuding.
TSF staffs joining missions have to help with everything needed: from logistics to calling operations. The Head of mission is the one who assigns the roles and takes decisions. My main role, during this mission, was to document everything. In order to do this job, I followed TSF, Vodafone and Smart staff everywhere with my camera and I talked to as many people, rescuers and volunteers as possible, writing down their feelings, converting them into interesting stories to publish. Every day, I sent the materials and information gathered to TSF’s headquarter, in charge of processing it and eventually publish it on TSF’s website, social media or to send it to our partners and the press to inform them about the evolution of the mission.
Melchor, an IT specialist working for the Local Government Unit, uses TSF free Wi-Fi connection at Tuding Rescue Centre to coordinate with other local agencies.
This station will remain active until the end of the rescue operations in Itogon#TSF_Philippines #TSF_DisasterResponse pic.twitter.com/ihh0ig4uWA
— Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) (@TSF_Intl) 24 septembre 2018
After this experience, I came back at the office with plenty of stories to share and new ideas to implement. Hopefully, this will help TSF’s audience to better understand the tremendous work of our staff in the field and to get a sense of the importance of telecommunications and new technologies in humanitarian actions.
I am already looking forward for my next departure. Who knows when and where it will be. TSF’s teams can deploy in less than 24 hours, so my bag remains ready.