Carl Adams has been working with our partner Medair for three years. He previously worked as a Programme Specialist with Tearfund.

Tell us your favourite story from working in the field? Picking a ‘favourite’ story doesn’t do justice to the long list of incredible people I have met and the experiences I have had. Working in a cross-cultural team has been a real highlight for me and I have found that humour is an international language. It’s a strange paradox that no matter what situation people are in, life goes on and laughter is never far away. I guess it’s something of a coping mechanism that draws people together in shared experiences, and there’s always something to laugh about. Quite often I have been the subject of other’s amusement, be it from fishing my sunglasses out of a pit latrine, waking up with a rat inside my mosquito net, or having wacky dance moves (it seems New Zealand is the only place where official events don’t end in everyone dancing).

Blog-body-3-(1).jpgThe damage in Sulawesi, Indonesia, in the days after the earthquake and tsunami hit in 2018.

What was an encounter you’ll never forget? I was in Sulawesi, Indonesia, in the days after the tsunami and earthquake that hit in 2018. Along the coastline, the damage was total. What was a bustling road of beachside cafes was just mounds of broken glass, twisted metal and smashed concrete. Sitting on a concrete foundation slab of what had been a café, was a teenage girl. She was looking at the sea, expressionless. In that moment, it brought home to me the human cost of disasters—seeing someone trying to comprehend how their world had been turned upside down in seconds. I will never know her whole story—who she is, who she lost, and how she is doing almost two years on from that terrible day. It’s tough and humbling to be in a disaster zone, knowing there are limits to what you can do. From it also comes a sense of purpose— knowing you can do something, and by banding together with others, it’s possible to do something significant.

Blog-body-1-(1).jpgCarl Adams in Nepal, meeting with the locals, after Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015.

What is one of the most successful projects you have worked on? In 2015, Nepal was hit by a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake. It caused extensive damage throughout the country, which would take years to recover from. In 2017-2018, I worked on a project that helped to rebuild 1,300 homes in a rural part of Eastern Nepal. The project wasn’t just about rebuilding, however, we focused on “building back better”—incorporating earthquake-resilient features into the construction of the houses so that they would withstand the frequent earthquakes that Nepal experiences. Our team of engineers and community workers worked with families to use locally available and salvage materials, to rebuild their homes. They were also given building skills. Once people had their homes back, many felt it helped them re-order many other parts of their lives such as their children’s education, improving living conditions, helping the health and hygiene of their family, and in many cases, people learnt transferrable skills from rebuilding their communities.

Blog-body-6-(1).jpgSome of the houses that were rebuilt after the earthquake.


Why do you do what you do? I’ve always been interested in why the world is the way it is. It strikes me that only a few hours away, life can look a lot different. Disaster response is surprisingly complex. After a disaster, there’s much more to deal with than just relief supplies. I think back to the Christchurch earthquakes or the Covid-19 lockdowns—we’re working with challenges of communication and access to information, maintaining essential services, protecting the most vulnerable, caring for people’s mental wellbeing, coordinating between different agencies, passing laws and regulations. In most cases, we are responding to disaster and conflict in places which have far fewer resources to respond and which have already faced several crises before the latest disaster. This makes the hit that much harder. I find this work rewarding because I see the real and tangible difference we can make in people’s lives by working together and striving to deliver better support to those we serve.

Ian McInnes has been working as the CEO of Tearfund New Zealand for seven years. For many years he was a disaster response manager for Christian aid organisations. His last role was as the International Programme head at World Vision.

Blog-body-4-(1).jpgCricket girl, Pakistan, 2011.

Tell us your favourite story from working in the field?  I responded to severe floods once in Pakistan, which had submerged an area the size of the UK. We stumbled across a bunch of children playing cricket outside a schoolhouse by the side of a busy dusty road. They were among the poorest of the poor, their parents were cotton pickers from the Hindi minority in the south of the country.  We took a break with them and asked them about their experiences. One girl really stood out. She was bold and forthright. She was also a tremendous batswoman and was smashing the boys all over the makeshift pitch. I took her photo in front of her friends. I wondered what lay ahead for her in such an unequal country. Still, in that moment you could only celebrate her confidence, and it just shone through.

Blog-body-5-(1).jpgHabitat for Humanity’s housing, Myanmar, Cyclone Nargis 2008.


What is one of the most successful projects you have worked on? In Myanmar, my agency at the time, World Concern, responded to a cyclone that had devastated their southern delta region. Myanmar was incredibly inaccessible in those days and it took days to get military clearance just to move about in the country.  As we responded to fishing families who had their livelihoods decimated, we realised they needed much more. Their homes, built on bamboo stilts to allow tidal water to pass under them, had largely been swept away in the storm surge that accompanied the cyclone.  So, we partnered with Habitat for Humanity who helped them rebuild their homes, as we helped them to rebuild their livelihoods, water and sanitation.

Blog-body-7-(1).jpg Ian McInnes in Somalia talking with draught stricken woman whose husbands had wandered off, or left them in an endless quest for viable work, 2009.

Why do you work for Tearfund? I love Tearfund’s approach where it weaves together a practical gospel of action, with a passion for partnering with local people. It’s locals who know their poverty contexts the best and can shape the appropriate programmes and responses. For our part, Tearfund is unashamed about a gospel of love for one’s neighbour and relentless in achieving funding and advocacy outcomes for our partners. To that, we add partnership with NZ churches and people of faith, and we love seeing people and church light up at the opportunity to serve and grow in the understanding of the world beyond our shores.

 


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