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PROJECTS BLOG 10/04/2009

European Disaster Volunteers – Peru Volunteers Empowered to Lead

Emma Taylor was a long term BWB Peru Volunteer, her strong ability to lead made her a perfect project manager.  The completion of the Ebenezer School would not of been possible without her dedication.  BWB was proud to sponsor Emma and the other wonderful BWB Peru Volunteers in their efforts to form European Disaster Volunteers.

European Disaster Volunteers (EDV) is a new group that aids disaster affected communities worldwide by providing initial relief and helping them achieve sustainable recovery. We’ve recently been legally recognised in the UK, and will be applying for grants in the coming months to prepare for an overseas deployment. Don’t be fooled by our name: We’re based in Europe, but we work globally and accept volunteers and donors regardless of nationality.

As a new group, we owe a great deal to BWB. They provided a $500 grant and supported one of our major fundraising initiatives, but that’s just the tip of the ice berg. The real hear of the story is that our founding members were working with BWB in Peru for many months before even thinking about forming our own, distinct group.

BWB ‘s deployment in Peru was different from the kind of deployment most disaster response organisations run. It was much more fluid, quicker to include all volunteers whatever their strengths or weaknesses, and infinitely more open to community involvement. Together, these factors constitute BWB’s unique strength as a disaster response organisation.

That fluid structure let BWB lead a great variety of projects ranging from public art to full scale school reconstruction. Their openness to new ideas led to an incredible diversity of programs. From a professional standpoint, spending time with BWB in Peru gave us an incredible opportunity to run different kinds of projects, and see others run.

It also gave us a chance to witness how powerful volunteers can be if you simply give them a frame within which to work and the tools to put their ideas to work. In Peru, EDV’s founding members were able to learn from BWB’s successes, and that means we’re forming our group with a huge leg-up.

But BWB’s influence goes beyond the professional level. I can’t speak for the other directors, but, for me, working within BWB’s community in Peru was a key factor in my taking my role with EDV. I arrived at BWB’s Peru programme with a few months experience on a demo/clean-up crew run by another organisation in the same city. I was anxious to work, and had an idea for a project, but most groups wouldn’t have given me a second glance, and with good cause. I was inexperienced and a bit overwhelmed by the disaster zone.

The BWB leadership had no such reservations, and I was running a project within days of joining BWB’s programme. I learned more in those months with BWB than in my entire college career. Ultimately, the experience and confidence I gained working with BWB paved the way for my involvement in EDV’s development.

And that is BWB’s unique strength – their open door policy lets those who might ordinarily fade into the background join, thrive, and, if they’re so inclined, becoming a driving force in achieving something extraordinary. Nothing could be more valuable.

No one is more aware of how powerful BWB’s unique community of innovative, creative individuals can be than we are. And that incredible energy nurtured by BWB is simply invaluable when facing the challenges of a disaster zone.

EDV is a distinct organisation, but, looking back, we are proud to have our roots intertwined with BWB’s. We look forward to implementing our own version of BWB’s open door policy in disaster zones world-wide and to continuing to grow with BWB. Who knows what the future holds, but bearing the spirit of adaption and creativity we learned with BWB in mind, we’re ready for anything.

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One Response to “European Disaster Volunteers – Peru Volunteers Empowered to Lead”

  1. Carmen says:

    Thank You Essex for your wonderful post. I am so happy to now be one of EDV’s biggest fans.