Saturday, January 15, 2011
GUMBOOTS galore but we need more for, Queensland, Australia, floods
Ok, so now I am the gumboot queen! May it be inscribed on my tombstone and proud of it... anyway, that is what someone called me down the line from Queensland when she spoke to me from the devastated area of Grantham, and even amidst all the mire and horror that she had witnessed, we both started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. That's what I enjoy about aid work, and what I suppose I miss now that I usually live a 'civilian' life, instead of one that sees me dropping into war & disaster zones in strange and faraway countries; the black humour that cuts through the bullshit and is the safety outlet for some of the tension and the grief that shadows any aftermath of epic proportions, it's just as vital and as normal as the tears and the depression that will surely arrive too.
Strange that the wee hours of the morning often afford the best time for me to type out a situation report for Operation Angel. Or maybe it's just the the fact that I am sitting here finally able to stop answering phone calls and simply take stock, and far too exhausted to crawl into bed and actually sleep.
Some success at last with taming the unruly logistical beast that is humanitarian aid distribution. In total, we have 1800 new gumboots - (rainboots in USA & Wellingtons in UK)10 pallets poised and ready to ship out to Queensland. (1600 hundred airfreighted from New Zealand and a gift from the wonderful people at The Warehouse stores and airlifted by Toll Global & Qantas and 200 pairs from Bata) WE NEED MORE - CORPORATE DONATIONS IN THAT AREA. It's such a relief that a huge trucking company, TOll/Ipec Transport have offered to do any of our long-haul cartage for free. Bless them, because with such a vast continent, having a dependable and amiable partnership with a transport company is vital when shifting such huge quantities of urgently needed supplies.
Taking a deep breath and looking back at the past twenty four hours is quite a mental rollercoaster - dozens of phone calls, lobbying, negotiating, emailing and interview after interview, meeting after meeting. My poor 9 & 7 year old children, who are on summer school vacation, have been very patient with the slapped together meals and the multi-tasking mother. At least I managed to get a load of washing on and so an underpants crisis has been averted for the kids.
I had been finding it difficult to obtain extact delivery locales for our stock, but thank goodness for a good friend in the military who reminded me that to get any coherent answer from the relief operations in Queensland, I was going to have to remember to speak fluent 'army'. The upshot now is that Operation Angel will be despatching our first gumboot shipment of 10 pallets directly to Lockyer Valley and the central distribution point in Laidley. We've also got three pallets of feminine hygiene products from hip brands Moxie & de Jour who have supplied us with a mountain of stock. Water, water everywhere and not a dry pad anywhere! From experience, I know that tampons and sanitary napkins are always the forgotten essential item in these disaster situations but not on Operation Angel's list. When I phoned to let a contact at one of the councils in the bush know that we were sending them up to her area in the flood zone, she burst into tears telling me that the 'girls' up north were desperate for these items and having huge problems in the evacuation centres locating same.
Right from the beginning I have felt like a dog with a bone, unable to let go of the gut instinct that gumboots and other items for niche scenarios would be needed. Robyn Good, my great buddy and now Operation Angel co-ordinator, has been indefatigable in her search for more items from my list. Sarah Allen has kept the social media networks buzzing with our official updates and brilliant harnessing of our contacts.
Received a call late this evening from a commander with Emergency Management Queensland, confirming that we now have co-operative and cohesive communications with the shires and good delivery points for our trucks. I was pretty horrified when he went all official on me and said that he had also been tasked by his director to pass on his personal thanks and that of EMQ for Operation Angel's foresight to go about obtaining all the gumboots and other items well before anyone else had even considered the safety and health implications of contaminants and the soggy aftermath following the floods. Very grateful for the thanks, but also embarrassed because it felt overly profuse in contrast to what Queenslanders have survived and continue to battle.
So, now, for those of you interested in what else we are collecting or what we have to ship here's a little list and it goes like this:
* 40 Potable water storage tanks - 1 cubic metre in size - love a nice clean tank and could do with more
* gumboots, new and now pre-loved - more, more, more please (kids & adults must be taped together in pairs)
* 1000 new hairbrushes - Rapunzel let down your hair - well she would if it wasn't so knotted
* Metal tools - metal rakes, shovels & crowbars - feel free to raid that garden shed
* 3 pallet loads of tampons & pads - nuff said
* Industrial rubber gloves (black or red) - throw that gauntlet to us
* Work gloves - what can I say, I like gloves
* New underwear - URGENTLY NEEDED - don't get your knickers in a knot,head on down to Target or Kmart, use that Christmas gift card you got from Auntie Mary and pick up a 5 pack for us
* Air Freshener (no candles) - keep that post flood stench at bay, lavender or rose is what I say
* Insect repellent - roll ons - do away with the Great Aussie salute and keep Dengue Fever at bay
* Waders - calling all fishermen - give them to us, we honestly believe you about the one that got away
* Work boots - preloved or new - taped together in pairs they're no good for walking, but boy do they do a mean job up the floods
* Mosquito nets - foiled again the Dengue Fever mozzie will screech as it tries unsuccessfully to feast on a sleeping child. WE need these desperately and have so far only been offered a wholesale price - if we can't procure more (free) I am really afraid of an epidemic of epic proportions.
Time to sleep now. You can see an interview I did tonight with Jonathan Mann on CNN Internationl on the i-desk programme, airing at 10am eastern time & 1pm in the USA and across the world.
Sleep well and dream of gumboots - I will.
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Forgot, drop off point for items listed above is: 10am to 4pm Operation Angel Warehouse, Unit 3/ 126 Fairbanks Road, South Clayton Victoria. If you are a corporate donor with substantial stock, we can arrange pick up by truck. Email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org