November 27, 2013
Aaron and Lauren Kent returned to Lincoln today after spending six days on the ground in Leyte Province of the Philippines on a Disaster Medical Assistance Team.
Both instructors in Union College’s International Rescue and Relief program, the couple and four graduates of the IRR program made the trip with Team Rubicon to assist the residents of the devastated region.
“It was absolute chaos,” said Aaron of their arrival in Tacloban, one of the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan. “The airport terminal was completely smashed in. We could see that the entire town had been damaged.”
The couple served in two different areas—Aaron on a search and rescue team that roamed the streets helping the injured and Lauren at a hospital in the nearby city of Carigara.
“The biggest shock was the bodies still in the streets. There were no undamaged structures in the entire city,” said Aaron. “The search and rescue teams went out into the neighborhoods. If we could patch it up or clean it up, we would take care of it. If not we brought them back to the clinic. On an average day we saw 150 patients in Tacloban.”
Lauren discovered a different set of challenges in Carigara. “I worked in a hospital that had sustained severe damage,” she said. “A builder team was working to cover an operating room and another team was operating in a room that had walls missing and a leaking roof.”
“And it is the height of rainy season,” Aaron added.
The couple found it difficult to leave so many in need. “This is Thanksgiving and we are thankful to be here,” said Aaron. “At the same time we know there are families of six or even ten people that are still huddled under single sheets of tin tonight.”
But he is always amazed by the human spirit. “You walk through neighborhoods that are nothing but piles of rubble, but life is just continuing on,” Aaron said. “The Filipinos were in the remnants of their homes, and they welcomed us and wanted to share what they had. It really is a perspective altering experience.”
Six alumni and instructors from Union College’s International Rescue and Relief Program have been selected to join a 20-member disaster medical assistant team from Team Rubicon to provide assistance in the aftermath of the typhoon that hit the Philippines last weekend.
“At the moment it appears we will act in support of a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) for Operation Seabird,” said Aaron Kent, an IRR instructor. “But we are happy to serve the people of the Philippines in any way possible and are thrilled for the opportunity to be members of this effort with Team Rubicon.”
The Union College IRR alumni and instructors will depart today to join Team Rubicon in Los Angeles before making the trip to the Philippines.
Team members include:
- Aaron Kent, a 2008 IRR graduate and instructor in the IRR Program
- Lauren Kent, also an instructor in the IRR Program
- Rebecca Lovelace, a 2013 IRR pararmedic graduate
- Finianne Umali, a 2013 IRR pre-med graduate
- Alicia (Archer) Moodie, a 2010 IRR and nursing graduate who is now a nurse in Grand Junction, Colo.
- Nathan Wahl, 2011 nursing graduate with IRR minor who is now a nurse in Canada
The invitation to join Team Rubicon came thanks to Vince Moffitt, who works for the organization and operates his own rescue training company in northeastern New Mexico.
“Vince is the lead Rescue 3 instructor for our summer training in Colorado,” said Rick Young, director of the IRR program. “He has trained our graduates, so he knows what they can do.”
Each summer, first year IRR students spend six weeks in southwest Colorado earning a variety of wilderness rescue and survival, rope rescue, and swift water rescue certifications from Rescue 3 International, a company that specializes in technical rescue education.
The International Rescue and Relief Program at Union College—a unique bachelor of science degree designed for adventurous students who want to serve through public safety, disaster response and humanitarian relief—also certifies each student as emergency medical technicians and requires a semester overseas working with a medical team to bring health care to isolated villages and towns. This training combined with general education coursework gives graduates a specialized degree with an emphasis in public safety or preprofessional medical programs.