Pockets. All I can think about is whether I have enough pockets. There is an unofficial correlation between your number of pockets and how good of an emergency communicator you are. The standard uniform of an emergency communicator is cargo pants and vests with lots of pockets. As I sit uncomfortably on the plane in my jeans and unflattering but suitably branded t-shirt I feel very inadequate in the pocket department. I’m on my way to do global emergency communications training with World Vision and I am nervous. I’ve been to developing countries before and I’ve reported on long term development work. It’s challenging at times but generally a hopeful and inspiring experience.
But this is emergencies. Emergencies where you are meeting people on the worst day of their lives, the days where their families, friends, homes and everything they know has been lost or turned upside down. I’ve wanted to be an emergency communicator all my life ever since I heard my parents talk about their work in domestic emergency services. My career path to get here has been unconventional. I’ve been a tea taste tester, worked in corporate public relations, marketed canned meats. I’ve negotiated international contracts on the supply of brussel sprouts, taught English to 3 year old Koreans, lived in a shoebox in France, dressed up in an 1800s costume for TV interviews and half written a novel. In all of that craziness I just wanted to tell stories that mattered.
But can I really be an emergency communicator? Can I really sit with people who have lost everything and ask them questions, take their photos, video them? What am I thinking? I cry at TV commercials; how can I possibly look into the eyes of a child who has just witnessed unimaginable horrors and focus enough to do a good job?
A 20 hour flight is a long time to be alone with your self-doubt. But after eating cold, dubious tasting scrambled eggs I realise, this isn’t about me. Being an emergency communicator has nothing to do with whether I think I am good enough or can prove my worth in an emergency context. It is about that one child whose story and image can make a desensitised world take notice. It is about that one mother who survives with hope for her children’s future that makes another mother in another country want to act. It’s about letting those who are suffering know that people around the world do care and that they will help in any way they can.
So I don’t have a lot of pockets. I have a backpack with loads of compartments and I’m about to start my training to be am emergency communicator.