GUNUNG AGUNG CRISIS….So you want to be a Volunteer?

The old lady is rumbling, at least at the writing of this article, that’s all she’s doing so far.

However, with her previous eruption and the devastation it caused imprinted clearly on the landscape and historic records of that time, caution has prevailed, and 100,000 villagers evacuated from the high-risk zones. It’s natural that we want to help, and so we should. If everyone did a little bit, then the load would not be left up to a few.

The Indonesian Government, local & national, as well as countless NGO’s have done an absolutely incredible job of managing this crisis so far, however there are still small pockets of people that have fallen through the cracks. This is where the independent volunteers kick in.

It is the first and foremost golden rule in any first-aid situation (and let’s face it, disaster aid is just a great big   first-aid task whether you’re shoveling mud or working in an operating theatre), to look after yourself before you give aid to anyone else.

Communicable disease following a natural disaster is the biggest threat to survivors and workers alike. All normal water and sanitation systems shut down, waste and affluent begin to rot and disease carrying insects such as mosquitoes and flies are rife.

Most well organized NGO’s will have strict guidelines as  to who may or may not go to ground zero in these circumstances, and will provide adequate prophylactic  medication and information to those on their teams.

Here are some guidelines for anyone who may be considering volunteering in the evacuee camps around the Island.


Beware the Hero Syndrome!

Have you ever noticed when there is a crisis, large or small, certain people come to the fore? They seem to take the reigns with incredible gusto, but often end up in therapy after the dust has settled.

What is the “Hero Syndrome”? It is “an subconscious need to be needed, appreciated or valued that disguises itself as a good thing, but threatens to make you bitter and to  overextend you. This insidious need will get met when you say yes and overpromise what you can deliver in order to   be liked, please other people, or avoid the perceived consequences of saying no. Community volunteers are also highly susceptible”.

How do you know if you have it? If you feel like you never have enough time to complete your work. If you are the one always called on in a pinch, the one to stay late or start early, or the one who people call only when they have a problem. If you get great satisfaction out of being the only one who can solve a particular problem, the one who will drop everything to help. You may have the hero syndrome.

It’s perfectly normal to gain recognition and satisfaction from doing some of these things, but when the joy of the recognition quickly fades into resentment, stress or overwhelm, then you’ve become the hero at a great cost.

The bottom line is: You are no hero if you steal from yourself to give to everyone else. A true hero does not get his strength by doing good deeds. A true hero knows how to fill her cup and then give some away.

We’ll all be better for it and then we can thank you, our hero.


Getting Ready & Protecting Yourself

Make sure that you are in good general health. Any one  suffering from the following conditions should not go to   post-disaster areas.

  • Thosewho suffer from chronic disease such as diabetes, epilepsy, moderate to severe asthma.
  • Immuno-compromised people suffering from diseasessuch as HIV, chronic blood disorders etc.
  • Anyonewho is considered emotionally or mentally unstable.
  • Pregnantwomen


Basic Vaccinations recommended for post-disaster areas would be:

  • Tetanus – full course or booster depending on your status.
  • Hepatitis A & B – full course or booster depending on your status.The usual recommended course spans a 6 – 12 month period, however fast-track courses can be completed in one month.
  • Typhoid Fever – Single shot
  • Rabies – full course or booster depending on your status.

Don’t forget that most vaccines do not give you full protection until at least one month after the start of the course. No   vaccine gives 100% protection (most 70% – 90% efficacy).


Insects, particularly mosquitoes, can spread a myriad of diseases such as Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, and  Dengue fever. The best prevention is to avoid being bitten.

  • Wear long sleeved loose cotton clothes, and apply a personal insect repellant containing DEET 30-40%, every 4 hours. If you are using a sunscreen, apply your insect repellant last. Remember to re-apply your repellant after bathing.
  • Avoid the use of dark clothing and perfumes/colognes as these all attract mosquitoes.
  • Spray your room or tent with a good “Knock down” spray, each evening at dusk, and before sleeping.


The Volcano Factor

Never take Mother Nature’s fury lightly. When she blows, she will really blow. Obviously stay away from no-go zones.

A pyroclastic surge (a fluidized mass of turbulent gas and rock fragments) can travel at up to 290 mph (466 Km/h), so no – you can’t out run something like this.

Make sure that you kit yourself out. Masks, goggles etc. Google for eruption and post eruption management.

If all this sounds too much for you or you have a condition that will not allow you to travel to the intensive post disaster zone, and you still feel that you would like to help contact organizations that are involved and volunteer as a “long distance aide’. There is plenty to do in fields such as administration, accounting, planning and logistics that you can probably do from your own home.

Kim Patra is a qualified Midwife  &  Nurse  Practioner who has been living and working in  Bali for over 30 years. She now runs her own Private Practice  & Mothers & Babies center at her Community Health Care office in  Sanur.

Kim is happy to discuss any health concerns that you have and may be contacted via email at, or office phone   085105-775666 or  Bali


Copyright © 2017 Kim Patra

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