From Burning Man to the Philippines, Davos

Monday, January 13, 2014

After working side by side at Burning Man’s field hospital last August, ATL’s volunteer Will Heegaard and ED Terence Steinberg split paths.

Dispatched to the Philippines with International Medical Corps in November, Will spent several weeks coordinating logistics for a relief team outside of Tacloban. Meanwhile, Terence is preparing to attend the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos from January 22-25 where he will contribute to projects of social change alongside some of the world’s foremost leaders. Terence will publish an editorial on his Davos experience in the Huffington Post this February.

Excerpts from Will’s first entry on his experience in the Philippines are shared below, with the full entry available here. He will publish a post-deployment entry on his blog and shortly.


December 15, 2013:

“I’m working with a team of about 20 people – 5 expat coordinators and a crew of volunteer medical professionals from less affected parts of the country. After a disaster like this, IMC tries to move away from staffing their clinics with international medical volunteers as quickly as possible and instead use local clinicians. The nationals are generally lower maintenance, harder working, and more attuned to the cultural nuances of healthcare in their country.

There’s a lot to rebuild. Every village in the area is covered in broken sheet metal, trash and rubble. The roads have been cleared, but they’re still lined with the makeshift tarp shelters of those displaced. There are also a lot of fires from burning rubble. Some nights, looking out from our balcony through the haze makes me feel like I’m in Apocalypse Now.

We hope to wrap up the Mobile Medical Units (MMUs) within the next week or so. The lines to the field clinics are growing thinner by the day and the pre-storm healthcare infrastructure is coming back online.

The issue we’ve been trying to sort out now is how to dissolve our medical operations so we aren’t replacing the local healthcare system and delaying the area’s recovery to baseline, pre-storm conditions. We need to do so in a way that doesn’t abandon anyone who needs our resources. A tough line to walk, we’re in the process of transitioning from clinical care towards programs focused on delivering nutrition and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). Although my day-to-day includes a great deal of record- keeping and I have little say in terms of decision-making, it’s fascinating to watch our mission evolve right in front of me, and more than anything, it’s fun to be part of the team.”

International Medical Corps - Tacloban 2

International Medical Corps - Tacloban 1