Guest blogger and OB alum Zac Clancy shares how his course experience helped empower him to lead disaster response efforts in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Outward Bound has, in one way or another, played a major role in my life over the past 4 years since my backpacking course in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The course quickly brought me outside my comfort zone, but by doing this, it taught me a lot about my abilities, both mentally and physically. That gain in confidence since my course is definitely still with me all the time.
A few months after the 2009 earthquake in Haiti, my friend Adam invited me to travel down to Port-au-Prince to help aid the efforts of his organization, Global D.I.R.T. (Disaster Immediate Response Team). He had been down since a few days after the quake. I arrived in March to complete devastation. As we drove through Port-au-Prince I couldn’t help but notice the surroundings: broken buildings, destroyed cars, people, rubble. Sewage ran through the streets and garbage was everywhere.
During this first visit I helped aid in patient transfers from hospital to hospital, logistic scenarios, and basic food/water/aid distribution to many of the region’s shanty towns. I discovered how resilient the Haitian people are. Smiling, joking, playing in the midst of everything that has happened to them. Things I can’t imagine doing if I were in their position.
We had to be prepared for anything. During our first night on a simple clothing delivery, we arrived to chaos. A child in the medical camp below was seizing, so priorities shifted to finding a hospital for the child and getting him there. Midway through the week, sitting in our room, we heard pops across the street – gunshots. It was a reality check, a realization that the general sense of safety that we moved in throughout the day shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Since the trip, I have become a Director of Global D.I.R.T. and have developed and designed our new website at www.globaldirt.org. I’m also currently managing a project which will connect all hospitals in Haiti, providing electronic medical record capabilities to all citizens in Haiti.
Without Outward Bound’s subtle life intervention, I would never have been able to take on such responsibilities and have the confidence to make meaningful decisions. Global D.I.R.T. will be responding to the world’s next disaster, and thanks to the sense of adventure instilled in me at Outward Bound, so will I.
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