Chris Trundley deployed to the Philippines after typhoon Mangkhut hit in 2018. Earlier this year he volunteered at Kakuma Refugee camp to support the Instant Network Schools programme. This is his story:
“I have worked extensively with NGO’s throughout my career deploying all over the world during humanitarian crises. When I joined Vodafone and saw they ran an Instant Network team using technology to carry out similar humanitarian work I jumped at the chance to be part of it.
When an emergency deployment call comes through there isn’t much time to think about it. I remember having to get all my personal equipment sorted, a trip to Go Outdoors and then say my goodbyes. Then off to where the Instant Network Equipment is stored to take to the airport. I think the first moment to really dwell on the task at hand was the flight over to the Philippines. I know I felt proud to be part of a small team deploying to provide humanitarian assistance but I was also anxious at the same time.
I was surprised at how calm and professional the teams we met were. We went to SMART HQ in Manila where we assessed the needs of the disaster. They had an emergency response room set up with a telephone link into their network monitoring centre and we were discussing the status of the country's network and where best Vodafone teams could deploy. It quickly became apparent that a location where some trapped miners were had no mobile coverage so within 30-60 minutes of arriving on site some of our team deployed to provide communications for the rescue teams. There was no panicking or shouting just calm professionalism from all the agencies involved.
Before we arrived and set up a communications link for a remote village the community were anxious about their loved ones that they had no communications with.
I remember one lady making the first call on the system we set up. If this was the only call made the whole trip would have been worth it for me. Her sister was an overseas worker and based in Hong Kong. After the typhoon hit the Philippines it then hit Hong Kong. Neither knew if each other were safe and well. The emotion from the sisters when they first spoke knowing that each other were okay was moving to say the least.
What I found interesting was the different usage from the various age groups of the village. One group of children connected to their school to complete a science project. I remember thinking that if this was my own children then a school project would be the last thing they would be looking at. More like playing fortnite!
If you are considering volunteering for Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network - Absolutely go for it. It is an amazing opportunity to use skills from your day job to bring technology to other parts of the world in times of need.”