Communications aid workers do a bunch of things, but their main purpose is to help make sure people have the information they need when disasters or emergencies hit. That includes everything from telling people back home about the situation on the ground, to sharing information like when the Red Cross will be distributing things like food and essential items to the people who have been impacted by a disaster.

When there is a disaster, it’s really easy to start seeing people who are affected as numbers. One of the things a communications aid worker can help to do is tell individual people’s stories, and share the human side of what’s happening, and how people are being helped.

A type of radio aid workers use in the fieldRecently, the Canadian Red Cross recruited some great new communications aid workers. In order to prepare them for being deployed (sent to do aid work), a week-long training session was held in Ottawa, in late January. A few Red Cross staff members, myself included, also got to participate.  This training, made possible through the support of the Government of Canada, covered a lot, including practice interviews that were done on camera, sessions about storytelling and using social media, how to use key messages to make sure the most important information is being shared , and even how Emergency Field Hospitals get set up. We learned some practical skills too, like how to use radios and satellite phones to communicate with the team when you’re out in the field.

One of the most interesting parts for me was learning about personal safety when you’re deployed. Whenever I interview aid workers I ask them what they think is the biggest misconception about the work, a lot of them tell me it’s how dangerous people think it is. That’s not to say there aren’t dangers, but it became clear during that session just how serious Red Cross takes safety – which I’m sure is something our friends and family are happy to know.

A safety training activitySo often I think we equate aid work with medical help and distributing goods. While this is obviously a huge and critical part of the work being done, throughout the week I was really struck by just how important the work of communications aid workers is. When you are able to put a human face to a disaster, it help people back home get a fuller sense of what is happening. When you are able to share important information with people who have been impacted by disaster and emergencies about the support that is available, you can help people recover.

 The training left us all feeling empowered, and ready to deploy when we’re needed.

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