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Aiding Yourself While Aiding Others

by Debra Dawson




Deb is safely in Uganda right now! We are so glad that she had no problems arriving. ASAH is grateful to Delta for allowing her to bring so much luggage and totes filled with supplies for the refugee camps and our ASAH girls.

While ASA is bringing these supplies for others, it is important for Deb to be able to bring some for herself. No visitor should take from the resources so desperately needed at a camp. To be self sufficient is a necessary for people who are blessed with the wherewithal to provide for themselves. This not only applies to refugee camps, but any emergency or disaster relief areas or situations where others are in a great need and you arrive to help.

As I live in Fargo, North Dakota, I am familiar with coming to a community’s aid when in need. In 1993, 1997, and 2009 we had devastating floods in the Red River Valley. The one in 1997 was the worst and I spent many weeks filling sandbags, making earthen dikes, patrolling them for leaks, helping evacuate people, and consoling those that lost everything. Supplies were crucial to helping everyone get through it. My family was one of those that were evacuated. Our neighborhood had a dike put up that surrounded it, but on the other side was just water for miles. The National Guard were using boats to get us out. It was an experience that will live with me forever.

This last year has seen record deviation from hurricanes, and the images of flooded destruction brought back memories of fighting the elements and desperation. The fires on the West Coast have similarly destroyed lives and livelihoods. Between the dramatic climate events and the wars that force refugee camps to exist, the need for aid only continues to grow. People need to be informed on the best way to help and to be able to care for themselves in the process. Due to this, I compiled a list that details what you should bring to places, including refugee camps, where you are giving aid to make sure you do not divert supplies from someone who needs them while you are there.

To Pack:

·         Durable Shoes. The camps are mainly set up on bare dirt that is exposed to the elements. The ground is offen muddy and uneven and there is a lot of walking involved in aid work at the camps.

·         Power Bars. Make sure you bring granola bars, protein bars etc. There is already limited food rations at the camps, so come prepared to feed yourself. Small power bars are easy to have on your person and will help you get through your day.

·         Satellite Phone. Try to  have access to a solar rechargeable satellite phone and a phone card or calling plan. Communication is difficult due to a lack of phone and internet service. It is crucial to have communication when there is an emergence or needs to address.

·         Basic Medicine. You will need cold, stomach, pain, flu, and wound care medicine. This is important because it will not be readily available and, once again, you want to bring things to the camps, not use their sparse supplies.

·         Mosquito Net. If you plan on staying the night a mosquito net will help protect you from disease and parasites that mosquitos carry. Many camps are in tropical climates where malaria and yellow fever are dangers.

·         Lightweight clothes. It is usually hot where the camps are, and it is easier to pack light clothes.  

Soap. The use of soap is for hygiene and washing clothes. Light weight clothes are also a good idea due to the ease of washing them by hand.

·        Personal Hygiene supplies. There is most likely no running water available so prepare for this. Bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, soap and toothpaste.

·         Refillable Water Bottle and a Great Filter. Due to lack of running or available water these are required. The quality of water available will not always be best or readily available so filters and portable water bottles are a must.

·         Solar Powered and Rechargeable Lantern. If you plan on being there after dark, bring this with you. The lack of electricity will make you thankful you brought it!

African Soul, American Heart is so humbled and bless to be in a position that can give back to others. It is because of our amazing donors that we are able to do so! Thank you to everyone who has help make our organization one that Protects, Educates, and Empowers our young girls and continues to bring aid to Central Africa.

About the Author

Debra DawsonDebra Dawson

Deb Dawson is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, businesswoman, teacher, humanitarian, and philanthropist. She holds a B.S. Ed. in Education and English, and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her role as mother to biological, step, and internationally adopted children led her to write When Love is Not Enough, a memoir about the way mothers and daughters forge relationships in the face of tremendous obstacles.

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