Settling In

Following the Christmas/New Year break in Canada, I returned to Costa Rica in early January 2011. It was time to start settling in to my new surroundings. I had my new house to focus on and getting to know more about Costa Rican culture.

At this point, the traveling and work load had taken its toll on my relationship. Since my first trip to Sudan in 2008, it was becoming clear that was the beginning of the end. This was before work life balance was introduced to me. My path forward now was alone, I put work before life.

Eager to start working with the GRRT, I was ready for a mission, a deployment. I was hungry to be kept busy. Unfortunately, back then there was not a lot going on.

What is the GRRT

The Global Rapid Response Team (GRRT) is a group of highly skilled professional relief practitioners from within the World Vision Partnership who can be mobilized in teams at short notice to initiate disaster responses anywhere in the world. The GRRT fell under the Humanitarian Emergency Affairs (HEA) team.

They are dedicated to helping National Offices respond with rapid deployment of critical expertise and supplies. The GRRT has been vital to the success of a number of large-scale emergency responses.

Without the team, several responses like Haiti could not have been attempted. Others would have been greatly delayed or much smaller. When fully staffed, the GRRT had 22 members. Team members are composed of different nationalities and live in twelve different countries.

What skill sets does the GRRT possess?

The principal mandate of the GRRT is to provide professional and sustainable emergency responses. Team members have therefore been selected with generalist and technical skill sets that maximize the effectiveness of those responses.

The GRRT includes relief managers, programme officers, and specialists in health & nutrition, human resources, finance, logistics, security, food aid, protection, information technology and communications. Generally, there were two of each, so while one was deployed, the other was in a support role. My counterpart, Zaza, who you will meet in a future story was good to work with.

How does the GRRT work?

When a large-scale emergency strikes, the GRRT is committed to being functional at the disaster site within 24 to 72 hours of the onset of the disaster, and usually will remain there for up to 3 to 4 months. At any one time, the GRRT has capacity to respond simultaneously to two large-scale humanitarian emergencies anywhere in the world.

During non-deployment periods, GRRT members are available to World Vision Regional Relief Offices for various disaster preparedness and capacity building initiatives. Requests for deployment of GRRT members to an emergency site, or for other approved non-deployment activities, are usually made by a Regional Relief Director, Regional Vice President, or National Director through the Regional Relief -Director.

Financial implications to the GRRT

When I was working with the GRRT, I was not aware of the cost factor. As mentioned above, the early days were quiet, and there was a reason behind that. In order for a member of the GRRT to deploy to a response, there was a fee imposed on the host office.

Each member of the GRRT had a daily rate that was standard. The host office would have to pay $500 per day for our services. As a result, when we were not deployed, we had a lot of time on our hands. For me, this was time to get to know my role and new country.

My New Team

Leaving my Haitian team behind, I was looking forward to working with a new team. Marcela, our Admin person based in Costa Rica would be getting more company. Initially, Marcela was alone in Costa Rica, the sole GRRT member here.

But, as I returned to Costa Rica, so did my new boss, Perry M. Perry and his wife, Samra, are amazing people. I enjoyed working with Perry on a few future deployments. Perry is a very laid back and easy to get along with type of boss. Back then, we were all smokers, except for Marcela, so the parking lot smoke breaks were a lot of fun with good conversation.

Perry had just joined the GRRT as a Senior Relief Coordinator. Prior, he was the National Director for the World Vision Lebanon office. Senior Relief Coordinators became the Response Managers during a response.


Arenal Volcano

I had a lot of free time being newly single, to enjoy Costa Rica on my own. One of my most memorable adventures in the early months before my first mission, was trying to see Arenal. Arenal is an active volcano in central Costa Rica. I had heard this was a famous tourist attraction, so I had to take a weekend to check it out.

Leaving the office early on a Friday, I took my little red Subaru Outback on the road. We did not get very far before the back end literally fell out of the car! Fortunately, being a World Vision car, I made one call and the Subaru was towed back to San Jose. Back in San Jose, I was given a new WV car, a newer 2010 Toyota Corolla.

As it was not too late, I head back on the road, eager to get to this Arenal. I had booked a room at the Baldi Hot Springs, where I would enjoy a nice relaxing weekend. Unfortunately, the weather that weekend was not the greatest, and I did not get to actually see the volcano. Notwithstanding, I did enjoy the hot springs and the scenery.

Poas Volcano

I also took another weekend day and visited the Volcano Poas, which is closer to San Jose. Again, the weather did not cooperate, but here I did get to see into the crater. With all the rain, Costa Rica is definitely a green country.

Office Work

Given the daily rate, it was not an easy start. I was in the office daily getting to know my role. Being in Latin America, I was eager to start working in my home region. That was not an easy task as I think I was over eager in my efforts. My predecessor, Brendan, had been a good mentor into the new role, but the days were long.

With the Office of Corporate Security and the Regional Disaster Management Team, we began working on the Emergency Standards for World Vision. This is a document that outlines timelines and function specific roles for each department. It came on the heels of the Humanitarian Emergency Affairs (HEA) Disaster Management Standards.

This would keep me busy until my first deployment, which I was eagerly awaiting. The one thing with the GRRT is that you need a global crisis. So, unfortunately, we had to wait for people to suffer on a grand scale before we had work.

Brendan and I had begun working on a work plan that would have me traveling a bit through Latin America during the spring of 2011. This did not pan out as I got slated for a Regional Disaster Management training in Nepal in March.

In Costa Rica, I was given a diplomatic status through WV. The admin team I worked with was amazing in helping me with all of my needs in my new country.

As I was preparing for future missions, in March of 2011, the Japan Tsunami occurred.

Next Story – First Mission – Japan Tsunami/Nepal RDMT

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