DListen: Dr Lance Plylyer chats to Laura and Duncan about what it’s like working on a DART Team.
If you thrive under pressure, can work happily in less-than-glamorous conditions and love to help those in need, you might be just the person Samaritan’s Purse is looking for.
The Christian aid organisation is currently recruiting new Australian workers for its Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DART).
The paid teams are called on for two to four weeks at a time when international disasters strike such as earthquakes, hurricanes, pandemics and the effects of war.
While Samaritan’s Purse is best known for its annual Christmas shoebox project, ‘Operation Christmas Child’, its primary area of work is disaster relief.
They need of people who have both a Christian faith, as well as existing skills to help in emergency situations. Healthcare professionals are often needed such as surgeons, doctors, pharmacists and nurses, and they also value people with skills like administration, finance, human resources, information technology, nutrition, logistics and warehousing, construction, electrical and other trades.
Rapid Response Teams
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Disaster relief trainer Dr Lance Plyler, who is currently training Australians for DART roles, has been involved in emergency responses in places like Haiti after natural disasters, and Liberia during its Ebola epidemic.
He spoke to Hope 103.2’s about the kind of work that DART teams do.
“We are a multi-sector relief organisation,” he said. “So that means we help provide shelter or food or clean water or medical, whatever the needs may be.
“Part of our responsibility is to make very rapid assessments of the needs on the ground, and we try to prioritise what that may be, whether it’s a medical intervention, or whether there’s been total devastation of shelter because of an earthquake. We decide what the needs are and that’s what we try to provide.
“Sometimes that can evolve during the course of a disaster and we may change our focus as it evolves.”
DART Teams Not for the Faint-Hearted
Working on a DART team is not for the faint of heart. The job description on the Samaritan’s Purse website calls for people who “can overcome daunting logistical challenges”, who “can work and live in challenging and unstable conditions”, who are “resourceful and tireless”, and who “have a heart for sharing the love of Christ with those who are hurting”.
Teams need people who ‘can overcome daunting logistical challenges’, and who ‘can work and live in challenging and unstable conditions’.
Medical workers may find themselves involved in taking health care to villagers in a backpack, or setting up and working in an emergency field hospital with up to 50 beds. Their work saves lives and relieves suffering, and they do it all under the banner of their faith in Jesus Christ.
One DART Team worker, an American doctor named Kent Brantly, made headlines in 2015 during the Liberia Ebola response, when he was treating Ebola patients and contracted the deadly virus himself.
He survived, and despite the close shave with death, went on to return with his family to the place he had served and come to love. His story is an indicator of the kind of people Samaritan’s Purse recruits: people devoted to the cause of helping others.
Prepare Physically and Spiritually
Dr Plyler told Laura and Duncan that DART recruits are trained to make them ready for the field.
“We take a wholistic approach,” he said, “from physical to spiritual preparation. But primarily we try to identify people that already have given skill sets. Maybe they’re excellent at logistics. Maybe they’re a health care provider like an excellent doctor or nurse. So they already come to the table with great skill sets.
“We then have training courses where we teach them to work within the parameters of the organisation of Samaritan’s Purse so that we can respond in a co-ordinated fashion in a disaster setting.”
If you’re keen to be part of a DART Disaster Assistance Relief Team, fill out an application form on the Samaritan’s Purse website. (The form is for volunteer positions, however this will start the process toward paid DART positions as well). Samaritan’s Purse will then review your qualifications and if selected, provide you with training before adding you to an on-call list.