A Fernie man has departed for Indonesia to deliver aid to communities devastated by a series of natural disasters.
Andre Bloemink was due to arrive on Sulawesi on Sunday, exactly one month after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake and tsunami rocked the Indonesian island east of Borneo.
About two million people are estimated to have been affected by the disaster, which claimed more than 2000 lives, destroyed 68,000 homes and displaced over 200,000 people.
Bloemink is one of 10 ShelterBox response team members based in Canada and will join other volunteers in Indonesia.
The international charity hand delivers emergency shelter for families affected by natural disasters and conflict.
“We’ve actually had two deployments in the last couple of months to Indonesia,” said Bloemink.
“Lombok had earthquakes in August and now this earthquake and tsunami hit September 28-29.
“Right now they’re saying there are 200,000 displaced from their homes… It’s our challenge to find those communities that are hard hit, vulnerable to the elements and everything else, and get them back into a safe shelter situation so they can rebuild once again.”
Bloemink has a unique skill set as a ski guide and volunteer Search and Rescue member and firefighter, with experience in project management and working with at-risk youth.
He has previously responded to storm events in Peru, South America, the Philippines, Haiti and Malawi, Africa, and this will be his fifth deployment since joining ShelterBox seven years ago.
“Every deployment that I’ve been on has similarities but every one is different,” said Bloemink.
“They all have their challenges and it’s overcoming those challenges as a team that makes us successful.”
Once on the ground, Bloemink will work with other ShelterBox volunteers and Rotary International to identify where the greatest need is.
“What we’re discussing, and this is what ShelterBox really prides itself on, is going beyond that sphere that’s being well addressed by organizations to find the people that might be forgotten,” he said.
“It looks like we’ll be concentrating a little bit rurally beyond the city limits, so maybe not the destruction from the tsunami but we still have the earthquake damage.”
With tens of thousands of homes and other infrastructure destroyed, getting around the island will be difficult.
ShelterBoxes were enroute to Indonesia last week and have been tailored to conditions on the island, with a mosquito net as well as water filtration system, family-sized tent and other necessities.
They could be delivered to families in need by land, air or water.
“Whatever means it takes,” said Bloemink.
The Fernie man and his fellow responders will also encounter hardship while on deployment. However, they have been well trained in many facets, including dealing with mental anguish.
“We’re going to be using local Rotarians and other local volunteers that are going to help bring context to the whole situation for us, and hopefully help streamline that process,” said Bloemink.
Elk Valley residents who wish to donate to ShelterBox can do so at Shelterboxcanada.org.
Bloemink said while the charity receives some government funding, it largely relies on the generosity of the community.
“Public donations is how we get the job done,” he said.
“We will not specifically take donations for Indonesia, the money that is going to this response has already been committed. The aid is on the way but we never know when the next disaster is going to happen. On average we respond every two weeks to a disaster.”