Monday, November 07, 2005

RedR : Helping The Helpers

When I first heard of RedR, I thought the name may have stood for “Red Ribbon” as the symbol for the fight against AIDS. But RedR is a very different animal than that. However, it is still a Powerhouse when it comes to improving the quality of life for people around the globe.

Before I get too far into this article I should tell you that “RedR” is an acronym for "Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief." And I know that name needs a little explaining.

Back in 1979, a Civil Engineer by the name of Peter Guthrie, was seconded by his employer to work in the Vietnamese refugee camps in Malaysia. By the time Peter’s assignment ended, he clearly understood that front-line relief agencies faced great difficulties in identifying and recruiting engineers. And engineers have an important role in reducing the human suffering when emergencies arise.

When he returned to England Peter sought a solution to this problem, and, after discussing it with friends and colleagues, founded RedR.

Originally RedR was to create a register of “carefully selected engineers” who could be called on at short notice to work for up to 3 months with front-line relief agencies “on secondment” (that’s “temporary assignment” for us Yanks) from their regular employer.

In addition to this original concept the skill base has been widened by including professional aid workers on the Register and by increasing the length of the periods of assignments.

By the mid 1980s RedR realized that the experience gained by its Members on assignment could collated and put to good use by using it to training and prepare new Members for their assignments.

The first RedR training course was held in the UK in 1986 and this training now grown to be a major part of the services that RedR provides.

The early 1990s RedR International was established in 1993 in London when RedR (then just a London organization) began to encourage other countries to set up their own RedR Offices. In 1995 RedR London was the first to complete the accreditation process which was established by RedR International. Then there followed in fairly quick succession RedR organizations in Australia in1998, New Zealand in 999, Canada in 2002 and India in 2003. Currently RedR Eastern Africa is operating as a branch office of RedR London and is working towards accreditation.

RedR's web site says that its work may be described under three main headings:

1. To provide sufficient competent and effective relief personnel to front-line humanitarian agencies.

2. To improve the competence of relief personnel.

3. To work with other agencies to improve the availability and effectiveness of relief personnel.

In order to realize its first goal, RedR maintains a Register of technically skilled Members who have been thoroughly screened for their technical capability and personal suitability for responding to emergency situations anywhere in the world.

Over 2000 of these members are registered and maintained on a database that can be accessed world wide by any of the RedR organizations. The RedR organizations can process requests for assignments by the requesting front line relief agency.

The improvement of competence is accomplished by conducting training courses that are run in many locations around the world. These courses enhance the capability of relief personnel and adapt their existing skills to emergency response. This training is open not only to RedR Members but to anyone who wants to improve their expertise in responding to disasters.

In addition to the training courses, RedR maintains an extensive library of books, magazines and papers on all subjects dealing with emergency response. One of the books in that library is its own book "Engineering in Emergencies," which was published on behalf of RedR by IT Publications.

RedR operates a Technical Support Service (TSS) that provides free technical advice to humanitarian agencies and aid workers when on relief assignment in the field. Over 150 Technical Experts are prepared to provide this help to Humanitarian Workers through the TSS.

RedR is one of the founding organizations of the working group for the "People in Aid" project. This project produced the “Code of Best Practice in the Management and Support of Aid Personnel” in 1997. The Code now is used by many of the agencies.

RedR also works with other organizations on presenting a series of Emergency Personnel Seminars. During these seminars representatives of as wide a range of agencies to “debate important issues and to explore collaborative means of addressing major challenges in all aspects of emergency personnel management.”

In 2003 RedR merged with International Health Exchange (IHE) and formed the RedR – IHE Recruitment Database. While RedR – IHE state that registered membership is open to those with a significant contribution to make to humanitarian and development work; membership is only be granted to those who have been assessed to have the right competencies. So, or organizations seeking competent workers, RedR – IHE ‘s online database of humanitarian workers contains the skill details of a wide range of professionals, including: health workers, logisticians, water engineers, managers, nutritionists and others who may be accessed by agencies seeking to fill certain positions.

Information on how to apply to become a member of RedR – IHE’s members and also how to find these members can be found on RedR’s web site at Recruitment Solutions .

RedR has been involved in East Africa for many years, and the increasing demand for RedR services made it necessary for them to have a regional presence. Because of this, the Eastern Africa branch office of RedR London has been established in Nairobi, Kenya. However, RedR Eastern Africa has been registered with the Government of Kenya recently and it hoped that it will soon be an accredited office.

With the Eastern African operation, RedR has expanded their traditional activities in favor of capacity building at regional levels and extending their services to those who are either African nationals (which they prefer) or to others who are on assignment to relief work in Africa. RedR says that currently it “is playing an active role in the development of region focused multiple year training courses for building the disaster management capacity of participants in a multi-agency initiative.”

RedR Eastern Africa’s Vision is: “A world in which human suffering is alleviated, basic needs are met and rights are respected.”

And its Mission is to: “improve humanitarian practice by training, providing and supporting competent and committed people, worldwide.”

Finally, RedR says that individuals and organizations can help to promote their efforts in a number of ways such as:

- Inviting a RedR speaker to talk about RedR and their overseas assignments
- Display posters highlighting RedR's work
- Encourage qualified individuals to apply for register membership
or to participate in one of RedR's training courses
- Help RedR to set up interviews and run training courses
- Help to establish a new RedR office in an area where they currently don’t exist.

As usual, there is much more to talk about than time will allow, so if you are an organization that can benefit from the services of RedR do yourself a favor and find out more about them, or get in touch at: RedR .

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