World For All

Friday, December 31, 2004

Disaster-relief Volunteer Army (DVA)

DVA can have both components - online and offline. I will write about both. Let me begin with more details about the off-line component which will truely make the effect. The role played by internet will directly be minimal but indirectly, internet can provide the ability to convert large number of small groups to large very effective Volunteer Army.

Nothing is very original here - lots of things are already being done. I am writing here to note them or I will write what I think can be done to quicken the process to create much more powerful DVA.


Large disasters are taking place more frequently across the world. Earthquakes, tornadoes/hurricanes, tsunami, large train accidents, floods. People feel tremendous necessity to do their bit to alleviate the sufferings of the population affected by these disasters. Disaster-relief Volunteer Army can provide that medium to enable individuals to make that direct/indirect contribution with maximum effectiveness. For the volunteers who face this situation in their community, they will be extremely well prepared to lead the affected population during the disaster and protect them, wherever possible.

Main objectives of the DVA can be: To prepare for disaster relief in the most economic fashion - utilizing local resources and manpower.

Developed countries have spent a significant amount of money to prepare for disasters and are able to press into action the official machinery in case of disasters - but most of the population living in Developing world has no scope in near future to see their governments spending large money to achieve the same.

What DVA can involve is a basic disaster training for a very very large population (involving an initial 1 day or so training) - followed by regular updates (emails, mails, videos, etc.) - expect normal high school and higher educated people ages 18-45 to take interest in this. Initial one-day sessions organized on community property with some audio-visual aides. Large corporations/Universities/colleges may be extremely good partners for the recruitment and training. All of them come forward with very generous hearts after the disasters - lot of them will be very happy to see some advance preparation being done.

There will be a smaller set of people (say 1% of the DVA) which will have a higher level of involvement in developing and organizing training and leading relief work in actual situations.

Main thing that will set apart this kind of effort will be that it will be powered by simple ideas, lot of initiatives but very little money.

Simple ideas to begin with - all volunteers will always carry a DVA t-shirt (or hand band) or some visibly identifying object - and if they are present at a disaster location, they put it on - and thus DVA becomes easily identifiable. Their training should help them to easily understand the organized plan (preferably developed quickly by Lead volunteers) and get into action. If the DVA dress becomes very familiar then it may be actually easy for other people to seek help and guidance and follow DVA volunteers.

If DVA presence is large in some location, they can actually manage to always carry some inventory locally to use in case of disasters (may be food kits, medicines, portable toilets, tents, etc.) - in case of disaster, it will also be possible for adjoining locations to move their disaster inventory to the affected areas.

Organizations like Red Cross volunteer organizations (like Scouts, etc.), and Government Disaster relief related departments can be leveraged for recruitment, training material, trainers, etc.

Local DVA chapters can be encouraged to develope local relief plans (identify command center, plan emergency communication, hosting out-of-station DVA volunteers, etc.) . Online tools can be of significant help for planning phase - and to some extent during the disasters.

Cash demand for DVA should be at the minimum (and DVA volunteers should be able to bear that minimal costs for their own expenditure) - however, during a disaster, DVA can become a tool to accept donations and making sure that maximum percentage (why not 100%?) of that is used for the direct well-planned benefit of the affected population.

Distributed model of volunteers should be the key to empowering the people! Minimizing the costs, maximizing the benefit and empowering the people!!

DVA should never have to maintain large offices, administrative expense or salaried people -extremely small regional office (if really required!) - but mostly people supporting from their work (with the consent and knowledge of the employers - and not more than 1-2 hours in a month - may be after office hours!) or homes. Community centers, parks, etc. should be the preferred meeting places.


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