Prepared to Respond

Katie Lowe, a student from Nottingham, recently attended our disaster assistance response training (DART) in Latvia and here she shares about her experience.

“The training is a week long and takes place in the beautiful Latvian countryside, just outside of Riga. Pass the training and we would be added to GAiN’s DART database, ready to leave at short notice for a disaster area. Arriving at a quaint guesthouse with swimming pool and sauna and after eating the most delicious home cooked meal, I could have been fooled into thinking it was going to be a relaxing week. After three days of theoretical training, we put what we had learnt into practice with a number of practical exercises, cumulating in actually delivering aid to Latvian people in need.

I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say the sight of Klaus, the founder and CEO of GAiN Germany and his friend Victor enthusiastically interrogating us and throwing paper aeroplanes at people’s heads in their role of customs officers, will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Part of our theoretical training involved learning about negotiating intercultural differences, something we found we were already practising whilst mingling with each other, the group comprising of 21 diverse and lively German, Dutch, Swiss, Spanish, Canadian and British participants. Our cultural differences were obvious when we put ourselves into groups depending on our style of dealing with conflict. Us Brits sloped off to the accommodating corner, too polite to deal with the conflict openly, we’d rather accommodate the other person’s needs. In one exercise, the leaders of the training pretended to kidnap me to test our response to an emergency situation. After blowing on my emergency whistle, Luke my fellow Brit participant walked over and calmly said ‘why don’t we all just sit down and have a cup of tea.’

For me personally, DART was so much more than the actual training itself. I developed practically, socially, relationally, spiritually and mentally. I have never before felt every value, goal and practical action that I aspire to, so closely mirrored by an organisation and group of people. To see unconditional love actioned so tangibly and professionally was a privilege. I left the training with confidence in my skills and 20 new friends.”