Disaster Surveillance's Role in SRC's Relief Aid Response

Five words fuel Neetha Rajasekaran’s volunteerism, “What more can I do?” This mindset has spurred the Disaster Surveillance Team Volunteer Leader to contribute meaningfully to the Singapore Red Cross’ (SRC) disaster response efforts. She also shares key takeaways from the Volunteer Leadership Programme that she attended in 2022. 

Neetha Rajasekaran, 29, a System Validation Leader, yearned to be a volunteer.

Neetha's unwavering commitment to volunteering stems from a simple question. "What more can I do?" 

Hailing from India, Neetha came to Singapore in 2017 to pursue her Masters of Science in Computer Control and Automation from Nanyang Technological University (NTU). 

Growing up, her parents always instilled in her the importance of giving back and contributing to society. After graduating from the Masters programme at NTU, she actively searched for volunteering opportunities online and came across the Singapore Red Cross (SRC). She promptly registered as a volunteer. During the volunteer induction session, she discovered the Global Engagement (GE) division, which focused on international relief, early recovery, rebuilding, international collaborations, and international capacity building.

"I was deeply inspired by GE's mission. I find immense fulfillment in contributing to the Disaster Surveillance Team (DST), where I play a crucial role in expediting relief aid responses in the aftermath of overseas disasters," Neetha shared.

Volunteering with the DST is digital, not physical, which allows her to balance her full-time career while dedicating time to volunteer work.

Disaster Surveillance in Action

As part of the DST, Neetha's responsibilities include monitoring and reporting on disasters in one of the four designated zones, with her team specifically covering North Asia, Central Asia, and several other countries. The online nature of Neetha's volunteering role provides her with the flexibility to volunteer remotely, even when she’s traveling.

In her role as the volunteer leader of her team, Neetha ensures that her team members are well-informed about the areas they cover and the trusted sources they should rely on for accurate information.

"We monitor the news and other sources for disasters occurring within my assigned zone. Upon identifying a disaster, we promptly report the details, such as the nature of the disaster, the number of affected individuals, and any significant outcomes. In the case of severe disasters that warrant SRC's response, my team conducts a deeper investigation to compile a comprehensive report. This additional research ensures the accuracy and depth of the report submitted to SRC," she said.

Following the disaster report from the DST team, the Global Engagement team liaises with the respective National Society in the disaster-affected country to inquire if they require aid. If assistance is needed, SRC makes the decision to either provide a monetary contribution, send assessment or relief teams, or launch an appeal.

Significance of DST's Work Highlighted

Neetha recounted the floods that inundated parts of Pakistan in June 2022. 

Recognising the gravity of the disaster from day one, DST group leaders and Neetha drafted comprehensive reports and closely monitored the situation. They submitted consecutive brief reports, highlighting the substantial number of people affected by the Pakistan floods.

The SRC responded swiftly, committing 50,000 SGD in support of the survivors in the affected communities. This addressed immediate needs such as food, emergency shelter, water and sanitation solutions, and hygiene items. Additionally, the SRC launched a public fundraising appeal from August 29 to November 30 2022, to support relief and recovery operations. In the first week of November, the SRC deployed three teams to Pakistan to assess the on-ground needs and assist local partners in aid distribution.

"Identifying the disaster's magnitude bolstered SRC's decision making process on the relief aid response, amplifying the processes of the GE team," said Neetha.

"The experience underscores the value of DST's work and its significant impact on SRC's disaster response. I am proud to have contributed to the SRC's swift response," she added.

Taking on the Role of a Volunteer Leader

Neetha was nominated to attend a Volunteer Leadership Programme (VLP), spanning four weekends in 2022 where she gleaned several insights from the VLP.

"It was a very intriguing session. I enjoyed learning about the ways that Volunteer Leaders manage people and projects, nurturing leadership qualities, and being a good leader on the ground. These insights helped me to become a good Volunteer Leader while connecting me with several fellow passionate Volunteer Leaders. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from their experiences," said Neetha.

Having taken on the role of a Volunteer Leader, she has gained confidence and derived a sense of intrinsic fulfillment. 

"I feel satisfied that we are rallying together and laying the groundwork as Volunteer Leaders. We play a role in contributing to the bigger picture of benefiting the community. This resonates with the Singapore Red Cross' mission of relieving human suffering, protecting human lives and dignity, and responding to emergencies," Neetha expressed. 

By Prashant Singh, Volunteer
Copyedited by Shahirah Mohamed Ansari, Volunteer

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