Following my vacation in Spain, it was time to get back to it on the HARD response. This would be the finale, the last 6 weeks of my deployment, which would take me into November. There were only a few things during the final six weeks that really stood out in my mind.
A week after I returned, we ran another serial of HEAT at the HPSS venue. This meant that the overly eager OCS training team would once again descend upon me. I still had no answer to the “mission love” questions, and by now I was tired of it. But, persistence was the norm, so some things one could not escape.
The HEAT course was a success, but not without accidents, injuries and bruises. We had a broken wrist, rib, and near heart attack during this serial. At times, the realism is just that…real. As usual, when the training ended, all the trainers made a rapid exodus leaving participants to enjoy the final meal without them. This time, there was no safari or day trip following the course.
Day of Prayer
Quite possibly the most disturbing thing during the response was the Day of Prayer. This was my first experience with a “Day of Prayer” in World Vision. Here we were, smack in the middle of a Category III global response, yet we had to take time to pray. Ok, I get it, we did Devotions either daily or weekly, depending on the office. The Day of Prayer was to be a day of engaging with colleagues.
World Vision Kenya took this to the extreme. Instead of taking a “Day” of prayer, the National Office decided to take a “Week” of prayer…in the middle of a response. So, what they did was planned a trip for all the staff to Mombasa for a week. Ok, this works if all the staff was reasonable, but WVK has over 1,000 staff. And yes, everyone went for a week, over 1,000 World Vision Kenya staff went to Mombasa for a week of prayer. I can just imagine the expense on that one.
No response is without its incidents, and the HARD was no exception. A couple that immediately stand out for me, and hope to be lessons to some. We had one staff member who arrived on the response with his brand new Samsung Galaxy II. From the report:
“I took a Jim Cab taxi from Jacaranda Hotel to Parklands for Dinner. The taxi left the Hotel around 7.15 pm. At the roundabout in front of Sarit Shopping Center, a man came from behind the taxi grab my phone, run back and disappear. The traffic was quite heavy at the time and taxi window was half open.”
The lesson on this incident, keep your windows up when talking on your phone and doors locked.
A second incident that stands out involved one of the national security officers. The initial report was an alleged serious misuse of corporate identity. The jury is still out, as if it truly were, the individual would not still have his employment. Regardless, a “flyer” was found in a couple of locations throughout Nairobi. The initial report was:
“I have just received the attached article from my sister at the Africa Development Bank in Tunis.
From reading the article I can almost guarantee that it is not World Vision content. Unfortunately the World Vision Kenya logo has been used (doctored by the author I assume) and the context is rather ‘severe’ and may have repercussions on the World Vision Kenya image. I hope you can somehow follow-up and manage any potential fall out.
This article was in fact written by the author with WV content without consequence.”
Dadaab is a semi-arid town Kenya near the Somalia border. It would become the second largest refugee camp in the world with just over a quarter million refugees. During 2011 and 2012 it would become a hotspot for terrorist activities, including kidnappings.
World Vision had created a presence in Dadaab by setting up a base camp, as shown below.
Operational security needed detailed planning for WV to operate securely in Dadaab. Some of the things we had considered before establishing our own presence were:
- Staff Tracking
- Vehicle Security
- A permanent Field Security Officer
- Base Administration
- Radio Room and Operator
- Visitor Management
- Security Training
Secure NGO operations in Dadaab were possible amidst threats that result from the massive numbers and needs of the refugees. The proximity to the porous Somalia border, the instability in Somalia, the existence of small arms, the strained relations between refugees and host community and the Christian identity of WV among others which have the capacity to make Dadaab a rapidly changing and complex context security wise.
What is a global response without a media visit. A security professionals nightmare, media wanting to come in and visit operations. I get it, and completely understand them, if they are planned right. Some just pop up, media arriving tomorrow.
We had several media visits during this response, but the one that stood out the most was the one from World Vision Taiwan. They were looking forward to exposing their celebrity spokesperson and media partners to the needs of children in Kenya and how World Vision was responding.
Due to the high profile nature of this visit with the seriousness of the Horn of Africa crisis and the fact that a celebrity spokesperson had been recruited, they had an opportunity to create a significant amount awareness among the Taiwan public with multiple media partners expressing interest in joining this visit. The two TV stations coming with us are among the largest news networks in Taiwan. Two TV stations…this was not a media visit, more like an incoming media circus.
They wanted to visit, of course, Dadaab, where we were still in the process of building our ops. In the end, just prior to the visit, another INGO suffered a kidnapping in Dadaab. With this new incident, we moved the media circus to other smaller venues.
On November 1, 2011 I completed my deployment in Nairobi and started the journey home to Costa Rica. I would only be home for a little less than 10 days before heading out again, this time to Phuket, Thailand.
Next Story – Thailand SRMT/HEAT