Saving Lives Together

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Saving Lives Together

Serve On volunteers have been in life-saving action in support of our friends at SARAID Avon CRT.

The Serve On crew patrol the River Avon in support of SARAID Avon CRT and the #DontDrinkAndDrown campaign

The Serve On crew patrol the River Avon in support of SARAID Avon CRT and the #DontDrinkAndDrown campaign

Members of Salisbury Community Resilience Team pulled a 22-year-old man out of the River Avon in Bath at 1.30am on Friday morning as they carried out boat patrols in support of the Avon CRT’s pre-Christmas campaign to cut drowning deaths in the city.

No fewer than 13 men have died in the river in Bath since 2008 so SARAID’s Avon Community Resilience Team have teamed up with Avon Fire and Rescue Service, Bath and North East Somerset River Safety Group and Bath Student Community Partnership to try to stop the tragedies.

Particularly at risk are students when they have been drinking heavily and in the autumn SARAID volunteers saved two people alongside the river during Freshers’ Week.

The Serve On boat crew patrol the River Avon in support of SARAID Avon CRT and the #DontDrinkAndDrown campaign.

The Serve On boat crew patrol the River Avon in support of SARAID Avon CRT and the #DontDrinkAndDrown campaign.

No sooner had Sherry Coles, Andy Gealer and the SARAID team been presented with commendations for those actions by Avon Fire and Rescue Service at the beginning of this month than the team was back out on nightly patrols as the risk of drownings rose with the start of festive celebrations.

Serve On’s Community Resilience Teams were requested to add their boat capability to the #GotYaBack and #DontDrinkAndDrown campaign and were happy to give their support to the great work being done by Avon CRT.

They also jointly manned the Operations Room which coordinated the different patrols.

With hundreds of people out and about drinking in Bath in the run-up to Christmas, land-based SARAID patrols helped several people who found themselves dangerously close to the river at night last week.

A series of tragic deaths in the river in Bath has prompted the #DontDrinkAndDrown and #GotYaBack campaigns.

A series of tragic deaths in the river in Bath has prompted the #DontDrinkAndDrown and #GotYaBack campaigns.

They successfully dealt with one very distressed young man, several drunks and one case of hypothermia, and cleared numerous people away from the river, via the emergency services.

Without their actions, Serve On’s boat patrols might have been much busier.

Mercifully, our volunteers had a few quiet nights as they patrolled the river from 10pm to 3am but at 1.30am on Thursday night/Friday morning a Serve On boat crew heard a cry in the dark and when they went to investigate they found a 22-year-old man in the river holding on to a boat mooring line.

Serve On Operations Manager Craig Elsdon said: “They promptly recovered him, administered first aid and we got the ambulance service to look after him.

The deployment to Bath saw the Serve On boat patrols supporting foot patrols by SARAID Avon CRT.

The deployment to Bath saw the Serve On boat patrols supporting foot patrols by SARAID Avon CRT.

“He was very cold. If he had been in there much longer it would have been a different kettle of fish. He was very grateful.”

Our volunteers will be back patrolling the river, in support of SARAID Avon CRT, this Wednesday to Friday.

#GotYaBack #DontDrinkAndDrown

*Our amazing volunteers offer their time for free, but such deployments still cost money.

If you can, please donate to help the work we do.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

 

Serve On and SARAID CRTs jointly ran an Operations Room to coordinate their patrols.

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Os Amigos Dos Bombeiros*

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Os Amigos Dos Bombeiros*

*That's 'The firefighters' friends', in case you wondered.

Serve on volunteers recently returned from helping Portuguese firefighters tackle an 'earthquake' situation as part of our involvement in EVOLSAR - the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams.

We sent three members of the International Response Team to take part in the SARday exercise, an annual 24-hour event held in Portugal for their 'Bombeiros' firefighter teams to come together and practice their skills.

Serve On volunteers joined other EVOLSAR teams to assess and coordinate 'earthquake' rescue situations for the Portuguese 'Bombeiros' firefighters.

Serve On volunteers joined other EVOLSAR teams to assess and coordinate 'earthquake' rescue situations for the Portuguese 'Bombeiros' firefighters.

EVOLSAR teams from around Europe are traditionally invited to send Search and Rescue volunteers to observe and to take part in the various SARday scenarios.

This year the exercise was based around a fictional earthquake, with the various teams carrying out urban search and rescue (USAR) activities as well as rope rescues, rescues from vehicles, open area searches and K9 rescue dog searches.

A main focus of the exercise was to practice INSARAG procedures, including the use of an OSOCC.

A main focus of the exercise was to practice INSARAG procedures, including the use of an OSOCC.

A main focus of the exercise was to practice International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) procedures, with extensive use of the On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) model and INSARAG paperwork.

Serve On IRT members Tony Bates, Brett Davies and Rab Smedley joined numerous Bombeiros and volunteer USAR teams from Portugal as well as EVOLSAR members from Malta, Italy, Hungary and the UK and guest teams from Italy, Germany, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

Serve On International Response Team member Brett takes a break from 'earthquake' rescue coordination tasks.

Serve On International Response Team member Brett takes a break from 'earthquake' rescue coordination tasks.

They deployed initially to individual sectors of the exercise area to carry out assessment work so that the Bombeiros teams could be called in and tasked with carrying out the rescues.

They were also tasked with command and control duties working alongside other EVOLSAR teams to direct the work of the Bombeiros teams, ensuring everything was carried out to INSARAG standards. 

*Our valuable work with EVOLSAR improves preparedness and emergency coordination all across Europe but it costs money.

If you can help with our day-to-day costs, any donation would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

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A Festive Feather In Their Caps

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A Festive Feather In Their Caps

Christmas isn’t always the best time of year for poultry but Serve On’s newest International Response Team members kicked off the festive season in style with the 'present' of a chicken-inspired name for their cohort at their first training weekend.

Phil talks through the October selection group's memories and analysis of the weekend

Phil talks through the October selection group's memories and analysis of the weekend

So, a big welcome to the ‘Cluck Hunters’!

Following in the footsteps of the ‘Moo Hunters’ and the ‘Baa Hunters’, the plucky survivors of our two tough selection weekends turned up full of excitement at Salisbury Fire Station on Friday ready to start their Serve On careers from scratch.

Egged on by existing operational members who will take them under their wings for the next 18 months of training, the new recruits had a gentle classroom introduction to life in the Serve On family, laid on thanks to the generous support of our friends at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The November selection group discuss their memories of the weekend.

The November selection group discuss their memories of the weekend.

First up was a chance to relive the highs and lows of selection, remembering the pain and the triumphs of the weekends, comparing thoughts and analysing what each challenge had been designed to achieve.

Later, Operations Director Dan Cooke led them through a discussion on the key values that Serve On holds so dear and which will be their guiding principles in the months and years to come.

Craig explains the anatomy of a disaster deployment.

Craig explains the anatomy of a disaster deployment.

Saturday morning brought the all-important administration chores as Operations Manager Craig Elsdon explained the necessity for the paperwork which underpins what we do, supported as ever by admin ace Finky.

After a kit demonstration by Rab, each new recruit cut the wooden block which will one day become their prized ‘diamond’ award for completing training and passing the final assessment.

Rab explains some of the kit needed by Serve On operational members.

Rab explains some of the kit needed by Serve On operational members.

Then came the ‘Animal Farm’ task that would decide the group’s collective name, to be regarded as a badge of honour as their shared trials and tribulations through training develop their esprit de corps.

In a cacophony of different farmyard noises, Anton’s fowl impression ruled the roost so clucking was chosen as the sound to be hunted. Then came the challenge.

Blindfolded 'Cluck hunters' seek out their crowing colleague. 

Blindfolded 'Cluck hunters' seek out their crowing colleague. 

Blindfolded and individually spread around the Fire Station yard, could they hatch a plan, come together in some kind of pecking order, with only whispering allowed, and, as one complete group, trace the sound of their squawking colleague?

Did they have the h-endurance? Could they pull it off?

Of course they could, and did, but their weekend’s work was not over.

In true Serve On style, new and old members had to build our tent accommodation and marquee in the grounds of the Black Horse pub at Durnford, in the dark and the rain, before we could hold the Christmas party and annual awards.

Party time as volunteers let their hair down for the Christmas party and annual awards.

Party time as volunteers let their hair down for the Christmas party and annual awards.

The evening was a celebration of Serve On’s hard work and many achievements with a slideshow put together by Craig which captured many of the highlights of another eventful year.

Treasurer Dave receives his well-deserved award with thanks from Chairman of the trustees Paul Rose (right) and 'compere' Pete Dunning (centre).

Treasurer Dave receives his well-deserved award with thanks from Chairman of the trustees Paul Rose (right) and 'compere' Pete Dunning (centre).

Colourfully presented by compere Pete Dunning, the Unsung Hero award went to our dedicated treasurer Dave ‘the cash’ Cook and there were special awards for Garry Wonnacott, for selfless commitment to Serve On, and Dan Cooke for outstanding contributions to Serve On.

There were awards, too, for Helen Littlejohn, Rescue Rookie Jazz Williams, Clare Gollop, Becky Elsdon, Dave Dunford, Andy Harris, Andy Lai, Anton Welcome (2), James Lewis, Lizzy Stileman on behalf of Team Rubicon, Ethan Elsdon, Vern Young, Rab Smedley and Nick Borritt.

Martin Phillips collected his ‘diamond’ award as Dan explained the significance of the trophy for the new recruits aiming to one day earn theirs by passing final assessment and becoming operational members of the IRT.

*Our Christmas party was a chance for volunteers, who give up their time freely, to let their hair down a bit after a tough year but there will be more challenging work next year and our new recruits will be part of that.

Training them comes at a price and it's not chicken-feed.

If you can, please help up to harness their amazing talents to help people in need, at home and abroad, in future.

£1,500 could fund a new set of kit for a volunteer working in floods
£1,300 could fund a new set of kit for a Community Resilience volunteer
£1,000 could buy a personal issue kit for a new volunteer.

£300 could buy a dry suit for a volunteer to wear during flood rescue

£80 could fund a set of overalls for a new volunteer

£30 could buy a pair of boots for a new volunteer

Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

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A Monumental Effort

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A Monumental Effort

Serve On's International Response Team has an exciting new group of recruits.

Candidates carrying their equipment after trekking through the rain all night.

Candidates carrying their equipment after trekking through the rain all night.

Twenty-three new faces will start training in December having been chosen from those who took part in our two selection weekends, in October and November.

Each gruelling three-day process pushed the candidates close to the limits of endurance, both mentally and physically, and while not everyone was ultimately chosen to join the IRT, all those who took part did themselves proud, giving the selection staff some tough decisions to make.

The weather in November, in particular, made the weekend’s activities especially challenging but both weekends were deliberately tough as we conducted our search for new talent.

A short break from their trek, but no break from the inclement weather.

A short break from their trek, but no break from the inclement weather.

Exercise director Rab and all the directing staff who gave up their time to plan and run the weekends, getting as little sleep as the candidates, did a great job, and we were particularly grateful to our friend Ed Bailey for the use of his farm, bordering the ancient monument of Stonehenge, for both weekends.

So, thanks to all who took part, congratulations to all those who are about to begin their IRT training, and we still welcome those who were not chosen for the IRT but who very clearly demonstrated that they have much to offer Serve On.

It was absolutely brilliant.

Serve On IRT Member, ambassador and members' representative Pete Dunning said: "The selection we have for people who want to join Serve On IRT is tough, but we need to make it tough.

"When we are out on operations there is often little chance for our people to get much sleep within the first 72 hours so we need to know that people can still function as a team member whilst they are cold, wet, tired, hungry and more.

Candidates led into position for a blindfolded line-search

Candidates led into position for a blindfolded line-search

"People come from all different walks of life, with different mindsets and different approaches, to join Serve On and we welcome all of their contributions.

"Congratulations to everyone who has passed selection and we all look forward to getting to know them a bit more and training them to be a fully-fledged IRT members of Serve On. "

Another day, another line-search.

Another day, another line-search.

The rigours of our two selection weekends failed to dampen the enthusiasm of our excellent candidates and hopefully everyone who put themselves through the selection process got something good out of it.

It seemed like it from their exhausted reactions when we spoke to them at the end of their selection courses.

Here are just some of the views they expressed:

Anton Welcome: “It was sensational. I really enjoyed it. It was everything I expected and more. It was the best way to really get you prepared for things you never thought you would experience.”

Candidates building their tented accommodation.

Candidates building their tented accommodation.

Tori Boyle: “It was absolutely bloody brilliant. All of us were unanimous in saying that afterwards. For me it was the first opportunity I have had to really test myself to the extreme. (Serve On is) an incredible organisation… (it would be great) to be part of the charity and to do something first hand rather than just donating.”

Lucy Hawkins: “I thought it was absolutely brilliant. It pushed me to my limits in every sphere, working with different teams, assessing myself and assessing others. How often do you get an opportunity like that as an adult, to have so much invested in us?”

Getting to enjoy the hospitality of the slightly eccentric local  village elder.

Getting to enjoy the hospitality of the slightly eccentric local  village elder.

Elle Wilson: “I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was good to be back doing operational work. I really enjoyed it. I suppose I did have a bit of an idea what it might be like but there were very different tasks.”

Laura Edwards: “It has been great. A really, really good experience. Obviously it has been hard but I can honestly say I don’t regret it and tomorrow’s aches and pains will definitely have been worth it.”

Phil Harris: “It was absolutely brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was hard work, and not just physically. It is the never quite knowing what is coming next and always having to be on the ball. Having been with the CRT it was more or less what I expected but it showed to me the gaps in my knowledge.”

Blindfolded building search.

Blindfolded building search.

Ben Hille: “It was very intensive. Full-on. The last scenario in particular was very realistic and there was a lot of pressure throughout, but in a good way. I am amazed at what you can do after three days of no food or sleep, working with a good bunch of people, both the directing staff and the other candidates.”

Diane Patrick: “It was really well-planned and put together. It was far more strenuous than I would ever have thought it would be. It surprised me how hard-core it was. Part of me understands why but part of me also thinks maybe it was too much.”

Toni Najdoski: “I thought it was good. Really, really good. It was a super experience; a real challenge and the weather made it even more so. It was a good mix of activities and a good bunch of people. It was thoroughly enjoyable and really challenging. A lot of us recognised where we could improve but also surprised ourselves with what we could achieve. We rarely get a chance to challenge ourselves like that in our ordinary lives. It was fantastic and I really enjoyed it.”

A camp-cooked meal to off-set the cold.

A camp-cooked meal to off-set the cold.

Dionne Procter: “I think it is was mentally and physically challenging and I think if you are a shy person it definitely brings you out of that. It was awesome; a great experience and one of the best – and worst – things I have experienced. You are definitely pushed to your limits.”

Catering in the harshest conditions.

Catering in the harshest conditions.

Pete Benkwitz: “I would say that, as a team-building experience and a challenge, I think everyone who put themselves forward to do something so daft should be proud that they got through it because it is a massive achievement. It is a sneak preview of the reality of what Serve On do.”

David Sanderson: “I have done some very bad things but this is one of the most intense physical endurance activities I have done. I found running from London to Brighton last year, carrying 25kgs, far easier. But it was enjoyable.”

Andre Pereira: “I have learned a lot of things I never knew before. The most important thing about the weekend for me was the people I met, both the staff and my fellow candidates. In some ways I learned to cooperate a bit better, which is great.”

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England's Ruck and Role-Play

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England's Ruck and Role-Play

Serve On is proud to be helping England Rugby develop the future stars of the game with a series of unique off-field activities.

Over the past year, in partnership with Mitsubishi Motors, England Rugby has exposed some of its most promising young players to a number of off-the-pitch experiences designed to develop their self-awareness, communication and leadership skills.

Serve On IRT member Martin briefs players on their next rescue task.

Serve On IRT member Martin briefs players on their next rescue task.

They have been taken out of their comfort zones and challenged to adapt their thinking to work with different personalities and learn how to get the best out of each other in varying situations focused around three annual activities which they labelled 'Earthquakes', 'Big Brother' and 'Grange Hill'.

We can now tell how, in January, we provided the 'Earthquakes' element of their training when a group of leading Under-20s players spent three days with us being put through various search and rescue scenarios.

Later in the year the players lived together in a 'Big Brother'-style house, where they were set more challenges, and then the 'Grange Hill' element saw them spend two days at Thomas Becket school, refurbishing the sixth-form, creating a mosaic for the school front and producing a promotional video.

We wanted the activities to be unique and experience-led.

On their visit to our Chilmark training centre, the young men, some of whom are already on the books of Premiership rugby sides, were thrown straight into the action having been told details of earthquake scenario they had been pitched into and the roles they would be playing..

Just as the England Women's Rugby squad would do some weeks later, in preparation for their World Cup campaign, the young men were briefed on a series of 'disaster' situations, in a collapsing house, on a rubble pile and in tunnels, and then had to carry out the rescues.

In spite of the fact that many of them were still at school, the training staff could not help but comment on the stature of the young giants, and marvel at some of the rescue spaces they managed to get into...and out of.

You need to be able to co-operate, communicate and work under pressure.

The following day it was the turn of the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service to be their generous hosts at Salisbury fire station as Serve On and FRS staff put them through more exercises, including a timed obstacle course which took them through a flooded pit and really brought out their competitive nature.

Throughout the exercises, the hugely impressive players were not only enthusiastic and keen to learn but polite and respectful, displaying many of the values Serve On shares with England Rugby.

Serve On IRT member and ambassador Pete Dunning said: "Working with the England rugby lads was a great experience. As an ex rugby player myself, and a huge rugby fan, it was great to chat to some of the lads and ask about their training regime, what they have to do every week.

"It was quite an eye opener. Obviously they want to be first team players and future England stars so they have to put the hard work in behind the scenes as well.

"Overall it was a great few days with them. We had good fun with them and I'd like to think that they got something out of it."

Dean Ryan, head of international player development at the RFU told the England Rugby website: "Once you are in a Premiership environment it is pretty difficult to stop and reflect, so hopefully these activities will come at the right time to help support the players to be aware of what characteristics will be required of them to be successful at the highest level.

England under-20s. Photo courtesy of RFU website.

England under-20s. Photo courtesy of RFU website.

“We wanted the activities to be unique and experience-led and compress experiences we have in life. We don’t want to define the end point, we want to create environments where people could develop and learn as well express themselves at their own pace.”

Saracens forward Ben Earl, who was also a member of England’s World Rugby U20 Championship squad in the summer, says the three activities have had a meaningful impact on his development.

“The first activity was about learning about yourself,” said Earl. “We were set some physically demanding challenges such as carrying people through fragile buildings and getting people out of tunnels as well as dealing with an earthquake-hit environment."

Earl, who also helped England U20s to Six Nations glory earlier in the year, added: “It’s all about developing as an individual and building those off-pitch relationships so that you work hard for each other on it.

http://www.englandrugby.com/news/how-england-rugby-are-developing-the-next-generation/

“You can only do that by understanding how others operate. When you are in those tough moments on the pitch, whether you are a try down or a man down, you need to be able to co-operate, communicate and work under pressure.”

Lance Bradley, Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK, told the England Rugby website: “We are proud to support England Rugby in developing the next generation of elite players. Our staff have been directly involved with these camps, working alongside the players to help them learn and develop, and it is fascinating to be a part of this innovative and pioneering project."

The activities, including the training with Serve On, were put together by Leading Edge, and owner director Patrick Marr said: “Creating and delivering valuable life learning experiences condensed into a few days, that raise self-awareness and gives the guys new skills has been an exciting challenge for us this year. 

"We’re proud to have been able to bring our experience from global business and leadership development and have been impressed by the commitment of the players and support staff to really making a change.”

The RFU say these activities will continue into 2018 and Dean Ryan believes the players will benefit from the experiences both on and off the pitch.

“We wanted to make sure, through the different elements we were able to experience and capture, that we could connect with the players outside rugby to offer support and a plan of how to develop,” he said.

 

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Giving Gorda Something To Sing About

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Giving Gorda Something To Sing About

It’s never over until the fat lady sings, they say.

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The havoc caused by Hurricane Irma is certainly not over for the devastated communities of the British Virgin Islands and the resilient people of Virgin Gorda have been hampered in their relief efforts by the destruction of all their normal communications links.

Now, thanks to backing from Superyacht Charities and Viking, a new team from Serve On is on stand-by to return to the island to help the people of Gorda – Spanish for ‘fat lady’ – to find their voices, starting with a radio station.

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The terrifying storms which destroyed so many homes and businesses also wiped out all cellular communications on Virgin Gorda so that what the people need more than anything right now is an emergency broadcast system to help coordinate their recovery.

*The islanders desperately needs digital radio communications for the emergency services and local Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR).

*They need an enduring FM radio capacity for public safety and information broadcasts.

*And they need a VHF radio system that links the whole island, and neighbouring islands, and not just Gorda’s capital Spanish Town.

Serve On volunteers who arrived on Virgin Gorda to help in the immediate aftermath of Irma, along with our collaborative partners Team Rubicon, have already moved mountains to pave the way for the vital communications links.

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They have advised the local Recovery Operations Centre (VGROC) on setting up an incident control system to manage their recovery, initiated the communications project and physically carved a path to the top of remote Gorda Peak for a repeater station to be sited to enable the communications link.

Now they just need to install the vital transmitters and antennae and while Superyacht Charities have come up with £4,500 towards the cost of the equipment, Viking have donated £1,500 towards the cost of getting our experts there and back.

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An FM transmitter that Serve On previously helped to install for the island’s new FM Strong radio station had to be returned to the island of Tortola, and the existing maritime VHF signals were not able to reach the devastated North Sound communities.

The new equipment will not only boost the islanders’ immediate recovery but, once normal digital phone signals are fully restored, it can be packed away and brought out in the wake of any future hurricane to provide invaluable emergency communications.

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Superyacht Charities trustee Ken Hickling said: “It is a great thing that Serve On is doing and we are excited to support it.

“We said we wanted to put some money into Hurricane relief and with such a worthwhile project already underway there is an immediate opportunity to help.

“It is not us – Superyacht Charities – being generous. We are merely operating as a conduit for the generosity of the Superyacht industry as a whole. All our donors and sponsors are the people who allow us to give funds to good causes like Serve On.

“The superyacht industry goes to the Caribbean a lot so the devastation caused there really does strike a chord and our people understand the value of the marine VHF in helping the islanders recover.”

Serve On Operations Manager Craig Elsdon said: “The local people are incredibly resilient but they can’t do everything on their own.

“This generosity is just outstanding and it will provide an amazing boost to the efforts of the people to help themselves, not just on Virgin Gorda but on Anegada as well.

“The equipment will be massively important to them in organising relief efforts in the short-term but that is not the end of the story.

“Longer-term, if they have the misfortune to be in the path of a future Hurricane, they will be able to safely store the equipment until the danger has passed and immediately have the communications capacity to respond to any damage caused, so there will be an enduring legacy.”

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We still need to find another £4,000 to cover the full cost of equipment and travel for our team for this deployment, and we need the public’s help to fund the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, so please give what you can.

Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

 

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Great Job, Team

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Great Job, Team

The last of our volunteers has returned safely from the British Virgin Islands after a ground-breaking, three-week mission to help the communities devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Craig in discussion with local recovery group leader Sally.

Craig in discussion with local recovery group leader Sally.

Dan, Craig and Simon flew home on Sunday to complete a mammoth effort by our teams, and to adhere to the Serve On creed of not impeding the local recovery efforts, once our work is done, nor becoming a burden on disaster-hit communities.

We were proud to have been asked to help after such a disaster and to work with the amazingly resilient people of the BVI and it will not be an end to our involvement with the wonderful communities there.

Simon leads efforts to cut a route to the site he identified for a repeater station.

Simon leads efforts to cut a route to the site he identified for a repeater station.

The difference we have made to the islanders has been tremendous and much-appreciated, and will be fully detailed once Operations Director Dan has had a chance for a debrief. 

Pete Old, a stalwart behind the scenes back in the UK throughout the operation, explained: "This type of deployment was new to us in many ways. We have never deployed our teams to a hurricane; never stayed deployed for this length of time; and never worked so closely with another team."

In a collaborative effort with Team Rubicon UK, and after being personally invited to the BVI by the Governor's Permanent Secretary, David Archer, our volunteers carried out important assessment and clear-up work on Beef Island, on Tortola and on Virgin Gorda where our communications, water filtration, assessment and organisational capabilities were a huge boost to the local recovery team.

We cleared medical centres to enable vital treatments of the local population, and cleared the airport at Beef Island to help speed the arrival of urgently-needed aid.

Our many years of disaster response experience allowed Serve On to work with Local government and international response structures to understand the needs of a population affected by Hurricane Irma.

It enabled us to provide practical on-the-ground support whilst providing information upward to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and, at the same time, to liaise with the Department of International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office

No fewer than ten of our expert volunteers flew out to the Caribbean at different times to offer their considerable skills, but none of that would have been possible without the help of those back in the UK.

Pete said: "Thank you to the teams that deployed and thank-you especially to Clare who led the UK side of the operation from a strategic/Gold perspective.

"Too many were involved in this deployment to name check everyone but to those who dropped everything to go to the Hurricane-zone without knowing exactly what they would be able to offer; those who drove to deliver and pick up teams at stupid o'clock; those who spent long hours in the operations room in Chilmark; and those who worked their magic with the web site and media outputs - THANK YOU."

Please let our wives, partners and families know how much we appreciate their support.

He said: "I would like to remember also those who allowed us to do this: Our wives, partners, and families who allow us to pursue our aim whilst staying at home doing the family stuff and worrying about us. Please let them know we appreciate their support."

Special thanks should therefore go to Emily, Becky, Dawn, Lisa, Yvonne, Cathy, Rahima, Anna and Shirley.

In order to support this deployment and the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, we need the public's help.

Please give what help you can. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

 

 

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Changing Lives - The Lawson Trust

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Changing Lives - The Lawson Trust

Serve On is extremely grateful to the Trustees of The Lawson Trust for entering into a unique partnership with us to support our humanitarian international response work abroad.

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With the support of The Lawson Trust, we are able to deploy where there is real need and where Serve On’s dedicated team of expert volunteers can make a tangible difference on the ground.

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This means we can help those most vulnerable when disaster strikes.

Most recently, The Lawson Trust has supported our deployment to the British Virgin Islands following the devastating Hurricane Irma.

With the support of The Lawson Trust, we have been able to deploy three teams of our expertly trained volunteers who have:

•    Provided thousands of litres of safe drinking water
•    Made areas safe including clearing debris
•    Supported the sick and injured to get the medical help they need
•    Set up vital communications

We want to thank all at The Lawson Trust for their extreme generosity in supporting our life saving and changing work. 

Lawson Trust profile:
The Lawson Trust is a charitable trust formed by Raymond Lawson (a successful business man born at the turn of the 20th century) and his wife Blanche.
In their later life they formed the Raymond and Blanche Lawson Charitable Trust which went on to become an incredible legacy of the Lawsons. 

Today, The Lawson Trust remains firmly rooted in Kent with friends of the couple and descendants of the Lawsons’ friends guiding the work of the trust. The trust has a wide remit of funding priorities with a particular focus on organisations which work in Kent and Sussex.
http://lawsontrust.org/

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Still Making A Difference

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Still Making A Difference

Our amazing volunteers are continuing to build up the resilience of the Hurricane-hit communities on Virgin Gorda.

Serve On have been absolutely fantastic

Working long hours, from 6.30am to midnight, they have made themselves invaluable to the Virgin Gorda islanders with their guidance, support and communications expertise, as local recovery team leader Sally Riley was only too keen to recognise.

See Sally's view on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/serveonIRT/videos/vb.347242632084232/954957174646105/?type=2&theater

Meanwhile we have been happy to welcome home Serve On's Mark Gatfield and Roger Howells and Ellie Mackay from Team Rubicon after their sterling work on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands.

They had been providing logistics and coordination support to the islanders, repairing Hurricane shelters and helping to prepare for the impact of Hurricane Maria.

Roger, Ellie and Mark return after their excellent work on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Roger, Ellie and Mark return after their excellent work on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

After the storm passed they focused their efforts on gettting key facilities up and running.

Roger, a former fire fighter from Mid and West Wales Fire And Rescue Service said: "The fire headquarters in Road Town had been badly damaged. The building was full of water, their control room was wiped out, computers and cables everywhere.

"We were able to work alongside the firefighters to help clear the debris and divert water away from the building."

See report of Roger's work here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/retired-welsh-firefighter-flew-caribbean-13674774

 

The team also assessed an old people's home where they found residents who could not be moved sheltering in very cramped conditions on the ground floor after the roof of their building had been blown off.

Roger said: "Working with the 59 Commando Royal Marine Engineers, we manged to empty debris and replace the roof of the building. We gave them what protection we could in the immediate aftermath of the storm."

They arrived home this morning to be welcomed by their families. Well done guys. Great work.

NASA photo from space shows the devastating effect Hurricane Irma had on the BVI.

NASA photo from space shows the devastating effect Hurricane Irma had on the BVI.

Back on Virgin Gorda, our team of Dan, Craig and Simon, plus Lizzy from our collaborative partners Team Rubicon UK, have seen the local management team grow and increasingly grasp the recovery plan our team has been helping them with and which has received high-level backing.

As pictures from NASA showed how Hurricane Irma had turned the British Virgin Islands from a green paradise to a brown wasteland, the BVI Governor's representative, on a visit to Virgin Gorda welcomed Serve On's efforts to help the local communities get back on their feet.

An advanced party from HMS Ocean also commented on how well the island was doing with Serve On's help, and how other islands would do well to follow the example.

There was more good news when the 15-year-old lad who took shelter with our team from Hurricane Maria was finally evacuated to hospital at Tortola for checks and was found to have suffered only bruising and a small tear to a kidney from his fall from a roof.

Flooding at our team's base in The Valley, Virgin Gorda.

Flooding at our team's base in The Valley, Virgin Gorda.

Our team is now back at their base in The Valley area of Spanish Town, having spent hours clearing the flood water brought by Hurricane Maria, and coping not just with the needs of the local people, but also with visits from the local wildlife, including fire ants, spiders, scorpions and the ever-present mosquitoes.

The next challenge will be to leave the local community to cope without us, and to pave the way for the rebuilding work of the 'grey shirts' from Team Rubicon.

In order to support this deployment and the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, we need the public's help.

Please give what help you can. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

 

 

 

 

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Building a Better Future

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Building a Better Future

After a harrowing two days under threat from Hurricane Maria, the Serve On disaster responders are back at work and continuing to support the storm-battered people of the British Virgin Islands.

Mission accomplished

Their immediate priority is to provide a working communications system which would be a vital lifeline for the dispersed communities of Virgin Gorda, now and in the future.

Fortunately, two of the Serve On experts on hand, Craig and Simon, are signals specialists, and they have the support not only of our collaborative partners from Team Rubicon UK, but of the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) team and the ever-helpful Virgin Group of companies.

The first job of our teams on both Virgin Gorda and on Tortola was to stay safe and they emerged with 'mission accomplished' around 6am local time as the storm-force winds and rain of Hurricane Maria finally started to wane.

Lizzy Stileman and Simon Thomasson take down the boarding which had protected the team's safehouse from Hurricane Maria.

Lizzy Stileman and Simon Thomasson take down the boarding which had protected the team's safehouse from Hurricane Maria.

On Tortola, the team carried on with vital assessment work, updating the people's needs in the wake of the latest storm to ravage the island.

Wrecked yachts on Tortola.

Wrecked yachts on Tortola.

For the ordinary inhabitants of the Virgin Islands, it is not just paradise that has been lost but, for many, it is their homes and everything they own.

Most of them could never have dreamed of owning any of the luxury yachts which now lie wrecked, littering the landscape and the harbours, but they will certainly suffer from the damage done by the storms to islands' tourist industry.

On Virgin Gorda, our team liaised with the detachment of Royal Marines and their medic to get appropriate treatment for a 15-year-old boy who had fallen from a roof as he helped his father prepare the family home for Hurricane Maria and who, with his mother, had spent the night in the safe house with our team.

The Valley, in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, where the team's stronghold was flooded by Hurricane Maria.

The Valley, in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, where the team's stronghold was flooded by Hurricane Maria.

Apart from the loss of a few roof tiles, the house had withstood the storm largely unscathed and by noon the team were happy to remove the plywood boards from the windows and to let the Caribbean daylight flood in.  

Returning to their previous base in The Valley, they found the building had been badly flooded and one major door had been ripped off by the Hurricane.

The team helped board up the gap and cleared debris and flood water from the main road as well as bailing out their base of operations.

They helped assess how the communities of North Sound and Leverick Bay and the Gun Creek clinic had withstood Hurricane Maria and found the stalwart Nurse Daisy tending seven patients at the clinic, now without a roof or power and with flood water in danger of damaging equipment.

The devastated community of North Sound on Virgin Gorda.

The devastated community of North Sound on Virgin Gorda.

Currently the only way of communicating between the dispersed communities on Virgin Gorda is to drive between them, if the roads are not blocked, which is what makes the setting up of a VHF radio network so vital.

Serve On volunteer Simon Thomasson, whose bosses at Ericsson have kindly supported his deployment to allow him to share his valuable skills as a telecoms engineer, had already helped identify a site for a maritime VHF repeater station before Maria struck.

Now Simon, who is normally based in the North of England, and the rest of the team are hoping Virgin will will be able to provide the equipment for our experts to help to install.

A VHF radio network would allow for emergency calls from the far-flung communities to get a prompt response and provide a pathway for the ordinary people to communicate their urgent needs as they pick up the pieces of their lives, whether it is building materials, medicines or food and water they require.

Communications ace Craig Elsdon at the team's hub on Virgin Gorda before they took shelter against Hurricane Maria.

Communications ace Craig Elsdon at the team's hub on Virgin Gorda before they took shelter against Hurricane Maria.

It would also allow them to keep up to date with the latest weather reports.

In the lead-up to Hurricane Maria, the sole source of accurate weather forecasts came from the Serve On BGAN satellite terminal, kindly donated to our team by e3 Systems (www.e3s.com) which has more than proved its worth.

Similarly, we have had reason to be grateful to Daisy Communications (www.daisygroup.com) for our new Ops phone.

It very much in the culture of our collaborative charities - both Serve On and Team Rubicon UK - to build sustainable disaster response systems in the countries that we respond to during disasters.

It would be a fitting legacy if, when our work is done, we leave behind communities that are safer because of the provision of a communications system, and we are also discussing our Community Resilience Team model with the local leaders on Virgin Gorda and asking whether this would be of any benefit to them in the future..

Though the Hurricane danger may have passed for now, there is still plenty of work to be done to rebuild lives, as one little bird proved as it set about its nest replacement, just days after Irma had destroyed just about every tree in sight.

In order to support this deployment and the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, we need the public's help. Please give what help you can.

Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

 

 

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Safe and Sound

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Safe and Sound

Serve On's disaster response volunteers will emerge from their safe shelters this morning to see what further damage Hurricane Maria inflicted on the British Virgin Islands and to get straight back to work.

Hurricane damage on Tortola was already extensive before Hurricane Maria approached.

Hurricane damage on Tortola was already extensive before Hurricane Maria approached.

Though the teams reported facing Force 6 winds, gusting at Force 7, as they hunkered down in their safe houses on Tortola and on Virgin Gorda last night, the eye of the hurricane mercifully passed south of the BVIs.

It meant the 'monster storm' which had flattened 90 per cent of the homes on Dominica, and killed one person on Guadeloupe, was battering the US Virgin Islands and on collision course with Puerto Rico rather than adding further woes to the already devastated British Virgin Islands.

Our Operations room had monitored the welfare of our volunteers throughout the onset of the storm and was happy to report they were all safe and sound.

Our team on Tortola had braced themselves for more damage to be inflicted on top of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma.

Our team on Tortola had braced themselves for more damage to be inflicted on top of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma.

Before they retreated to a home they knew to have survived Hurricane Irma unscathed, our team on Virgin Gorda had spent eight hours securing two homes and a school, boarding up windows and doors, drilling through concrete and removing all debris that could be picked up by the storm.

They also helped to care for a 15-year-old boy who had fallen 12ft from a roof while helping his father weather-proof their own home.

The lad needs CT scans at the Peebles Hospital on Tortola but the weather meant he and his mother had to hunker down in the house with our team, waiting until Maria has passed before he can be moved.

On Virgin Gorda the team helped clear debris that could be picked up by Hurricane Maria and turned into missiles.

On Virgin Gorda the team helped clear debris that could be picked up by Hurricane Maria and turned into missiles.

On Tortola, our team had similarly spent the time ahead of Maria's arrival helping make shelters safe, and preparing for their own safety.

The word from all our volunteers was that they were fit and well and feeling positive about the ongoing work, as soon as the weather allows them to carry on.

One of the key functions our experts have been able to perform has been to help provide clean drinking water for the people of Virgin Gorda with our Arctic Clear portable water filtration unit.

Locals in The Valley area of Virgin Gorda'scapital Spanish Town queued for drinking water produced by our water filtration unit.

Locals in The Valley area of Virgin Gorda'scapital Spanish Town queued for drinking water produced by our water filtration unit.

When the unit broke from constant use, our collaborative partners at Team Rubicon UK were able to help us fly out spare parts with one of their teams in order to get it going again and it would seem wrong for the team, when they finally leave the BVI to take it away from the local people.

Finding the £3,000+ to replace the unit ready for future missions is another reason why the charity needs donations from the public.

In order to support this deployment and the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, we need the public's help.

Please give what help you can. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

Meanwhile, Serve On has been monitoring the latest earthquake in Mexico which has killed more than 200.

Having regard to the local capabilities to provide an Urban Search and Rescue response, we think they have the necessary specialist resources in country to cope with the disaster and so we have not formally offered our capability, but we will continue to keep an eye on the situation.

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Hunkering down for Hurricane Maria

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Hunkering down for Hurricane Maria

Serve On's disaster response experts were tonight safely sheltered against the second Category 5 Hurricane to hit the British Virgin Islands within a fortnight.

As high winds and heavy rains lashed the islands already laid waste by Hurricane Irma, it was hoped the eye of the latest storm would pass just south of the BVI, sparing them the most devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.

Scene of devastation outside the team's stronghold before Hurricane Maria. 

Scene of devastation outside the team's stronghold before Hurricane Maria. 

In any case, our volunteers were well prepared for the worst and had made sure they were in safe accommodation, having taken all possible precautions to protect themselves, and the islanders they have been helping.

They know from years of experience in disaster zones, and from our extensive training, that their safety is paramount.

Hurricane Maria, which had unexpectedly strengthened in just a few hours from a Category 1 Hurricane to a Category 5, with 160mph winds, had this morning hit the island of Dominica with devastating effect, and was on course to hit Puerto Rico.

Our teams on the British Virgin islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, along with our colleagues from Team Rubicon UK, had used the time awaiting Maria's arrival to help the locals prepare for another catastrophic weather system, identifying the strongest shelters and, liaising with British Royal Marines as they helped to reinforce them.

Storm clouds brew over Virgin Gorda

Storm clouds brew over Virgin Gorda

Operations Director Dan Cooke and Operations Manager Craig Elsdon, leading Operation Zulu Warrior on Virgin Gorda, reported that morale was high and progress good, though the wind was strengthening and the sea state was 'fruity'.

They, along with International Response Team member Simon Thomasson, and Team Rubicon's Lizzy Stileman, were taking shelter in a house that had withstood Hurricane Irma with no damage at all.

They had previously left the bank building 'stronghold' in Spanish Town which had been the team's base, and they had carefully rehearsed all their emergency plans

On Tortola, Mark Gatfield and Roger Howells were similarly making sure they were safe having done all they could to help the locals prepare for Maria.

Earlier, telecoms expert Simon had worked with Virgin staff to identify a site for the location of repeater station which will make a huge difference to the communications for the whole of Virgin Gorda once the Hurricane danger has passed, and Craig Elsdon had set up in single email link for the islanders.

Dan Cooke and Craig Elsdon help locals organise their recovery.

Dan Cooke and Craig Elsdon help locals organise their recovery.

We are monitoring Maria's situation closely from the UK, and wish our teams the best, and we know that when Maria blows over they will be perfectly placed to respond to any islanders needing help.

Their skills in setting up advanced communications systems and communicating any immediate needs to government agencies or our collaborative partners in the BVI, Team Rubicon, will also be invaluable.

In order to support this deployment and the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, we need the public's help.

Please give what help you can. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

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 Press Release: RAF support enables rescue team to reach hurricane hit BVI - first report from the field

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Press Release: RAF support enables rescue team to reach hurricane hit BVI - first report from the field

A joint disaster response mission by Serve On and Team Rubicon UK have arrived in the Hurricane-hit British Virgin Islands in a unique collaboration with the Royal Air Force.

With the BVI devastated by category 5 Irma's 185mph winds and Category 4 Hurricane Jose threatening to follow Irma's path of destruction, the team had successfully reached Barbados but all standard flights onward to the area had been cancelled.

The only air link to the main island Tortola was through rare emergency flights until the arrival of the RAF on Friday.

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