Supporting RedR UK — volunteering

May 2020
Whitby Wood is supporting international NGO RedR UK, with senior engineer Emma Francois taking on a volunteering role for them. Part of her work involves researching the impact of COVID-19 in various countries. RedR is an organisation that we and our engineers have been supporting for a while now.

Emma explains: “RedR UK began life in the 1980s as the Register of Engineers for Disaster Relief. Since then it has evolved, building capacity in-country and developing the skills of humanitarians through interactive training and immersive simulations.”

Emma Francois and RedR UK

She has been volunteering with RedR since 2013 and has so far led colleagues in raising over £12,000 for them, as well as taking part in and organising various training sessions. This time she signed up with the idea of bringing an engineer’s perspective to their Africa Catalyst and Engineering Skills Uganda projects, as well as volunteering general support for a variety of administration and research tasks.

With the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, Emma has been researching the impacts in the various countries where RedR has existing projects — to help them tailor their responses to each local situation.

She says: “It has been really interesting to compare the strategies for combatting coronavirus across different countries, as well as the public reactions. From treatment methods to only allowing men and women out on different days to encourage social distancing, the impact on different cultures has been varied. As with many people, we are now learning how to communicate primarily by virtual means but with cross-continental projects there are added challenges with the digital infrastructure as well adjusting to new ways of living.”

The Engineering Skills Uganda Project, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, is aimed at teaching Ugandan engineers how to transfer their engineering skills for use in humanitarian contexts in order to respond to local and national disasters. Uganda faces many challenges, including the hosting of 1.4 million refugees, locust infestations, nearby conflicts and, most recently, heavy rainfall leading to flooding. There is very real and practical need that engineering technical competency has the power to address. The project supports the Ugandan Institute of Professional Engineers in widening the skills of its members, directly training 100 engineers and reaching over 2,000 in total.

Emma is an experienced volunteer, having undertaken short-term international development projects in Cambodia with Tearfund/Cambodian Hope Organisation and in Guatemala with Constru Casa. She currently leads Whitby Wood’s International Development Task Group.

RedR is supported by the Whitbybird Foundation for its COVID-19 training scheme, RedR’s first UK-based project.

RedR UK : www.redr.org.uk

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