Ex-military volunteers deliver aid in disaster-struck and war-torn countries

PUBLISHED: 08:00 11 May 2019

Team Rubicon UK supporting DIY SOS continuing work at Exford Close.    

Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Team Rubicon UK supporting DIY SOS continuing work at Exford Close. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

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Two ex-military personnel have joined a charity team to Mozambique to deliver aid to hundreds of people.

Stefan Hoole in Birmingham after the floods. Picture: Team Rubicon UKStefan Hoole in Birmingham after the floods. Picture: Team Rubicon UK

Team Rubicon UK has helped deliver 150 tonnes worth of aid to 11,000 people across eight remote communities, and two men from North Somerset have joined the team.

The disaster-reaction team has deployed people from around the country to parts of war-torn and disaster-struck communities which normal aid organisations struggle to access.

Regional co-ordinator Mark Bradshaw, aged 51 from Weston, and 28-year-old Stefan Hoole, from Portishead, are in Mozambique following a devastating cyclone.

Both had been part of the Royal Tank Regime before joining the disaster response charity.

Stefan Hoole in the British Virgin Isles. Picture: Team Rubicon UKStefan Hoole in the British Virgin Isles. Picture: Team Rubicon UK

Stefan served for five years in the military, including a stint in Afghanistan in 2016, and said Team Rubicon UK had given him a 'sense of purpose' after leaving the army.

He said: "I first heard about Team Rubicon UK in 2016.

"A friend I had been in the military with had already been volunteering with them and deployed to Haiti.

"I went down to an open day the following week and I went for an induction. Three months later, Hurricane Irma hit so I deployed to the British Virgin Isles.

Stefan Hoole in Birmingham after the floods. Picture: Team Rubicon UKStefan Hoole in Birmingham after the floods. Picture: Team Rubicon UK

"I formed part of the incident management team, since then I have been deployed to Birmingham after the flash floods and I have had regular involvement with them since.

"I got a great sense of purpose. After leaving the military I was quite lost, so re-triggered that part of me - still wanting to serve and wanting to be a part of something bigger than myself.

"It is very powerful how you can have such a significant impact on the beneficiaries. It is a special feeling and I enjoy giving back."

Team Rubicon UK usually deploys a team to a disaster stricken area within 24-48 hours and the team are able to go into places which other charities cannot due to the military background of its volunteers.

Team Rubicon UK has now touched down in Mozambique. Picture: Team Rubicon UK Team Rubicon UK has now touched down in Mozambique. Picture: Team Rubicon UK

Regional fundraising and communications officer Rich McSweeney said: "We will carry everything in our vehicles and on our backs.

"We are using the skill sets which we gained while in the military and then those we have picked up from civilian life, we then combine them and it gives us a dynamic, military approach.

"In the military you are trained to be able to write a plan on the back of a cigarette packet.

"In disasters, we can be implemented in there and bring some order to the chaos through our training."

Team Rubicon UK has now touched down in Mozambique. Picture: Team Rubicon UK Team Rubicon UK has now touched down in Mozambique. Picture: Team Rubicon UK

Mark told the Times: "I was looking on Facebook about three years ago and saw one of my old bosses was working in the operations room for Team Rubicon in 2016 and I sarcastically said 'you shouldn't be trusted to work in the operations room so I am going to drive down there and take a look'.

"My first deployment was to the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma. I spoke to my boss, went home and the next day I was at Heathrow waiting for my flight, landing in Haiti and then on through the Caribbean.

"Traditionally the larger aid organisations take quite a long time to get into the country so there is a gap which is not filled.

"We try to deploy early, assess the need and then determine if there is a need for taking teams in.

Team Rubicon UK has now touched down in Mozambique. Picture: Team Rubicon UK Team Rubicon UK has now touched down in Mozambique. Picture: Team Rubicon UK

"With Hurricane Irma, a small team of five of us were deployed from across the country to Haiti, then we did damage assessments, water purification assessments, if they needed communications or solar power.

"We determined in Turks and Caicos there wasn't really a need but in the British Virgin Islands we could do some good work.

"Across our volunteers, we were out there for two to three months helping to rebuild schools and houses where the need was the greatest. One minute you are out in the middle of a disaster zone, helping people who have had their worst day, then the next I am back at my desk pushing pixels around and colouring in on a computer.

"It is a bit of a culture shock but with a military background you are used to bringing order to chaos."

Stefan and Mark are in Mozambique after Cyclone Idai hit the country and killed hundreds of people and devastated thousands of communities, houses and crops in one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect the southern hemisphere.

With about 250,000 homes destroyed and 602 people dead, as of April 9, a team of the former British service and expert civilians have been deployed to help on the ground.

Almost two dozen aid workers from Team Rubicon UK have been putting their military skills to good use.

Find out more about Team Rubicon at www.teamrubiconuk.org

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