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NZ Employers See Volunteers’ Contribution In South Pacific

24 August 2012

NZ Employers See Volunteers’ “Unique Contribution” In South Pacific

Senior executives from nine New Zealand organisations, including the CEOs from three District Health Boards (DHB), saw first-hand the “real and unique contribution” of volunteers and New Zealand Defence Force reservists from NZ hospitals who recently took part in a humanitarian mission in Samoa.

“It was extremely rewarding to be able to see the real difference they were making,” said Peter Townsend, CEO of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and the Chairman of the Territorial Forces Employers Support Council.

“They worked well together as dedicated teams, providing support and assistance to the community....I felt extremely proud to see the real and unique contribution we are making in the Pacific,” he noted.

A dozen healthcare professionals from NZ hospitals and a reservist surgeon and an anaesthetist from Capital and Coast District Health Board formed part of the 100-strong contingent deployed to Samoa for the humanitarian aid and disaster response (HADR) exercise. The New Zealand Defence Force conducted Exercise Tropic Twilight in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 28 July to 19 August.

“The exercise aimed to test the military’s ability to respond at short notice in the event of a natural disaster in the Pacific,” Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) William Twiss said.

The training scenario saw the Army’s Forward Surgical Team (FST) being deployed to Samoa to help local authorities clear a backlog of minor surgeries as the Pacific island-nation recovers from the wrath of a fictional cyclone, explained LTCOL Twiss.

The FST, which was comprised of about 30 Army doctors, nurses, medical scientists, reservist surgeons and anaesthetists and a dozen healthcare volunteers, performed at least 61 minor surgeries at the tent hospital set up by the contingent on the grounds of a Samoan high school. They also ran outreach clinics in remote villages in the main island of ‘Upolu and the neighbouring Savai’i island, focusing on oral health, maternal health and child immunisations.

“It was an opportunity to observe the capabilities of the NZ Defence Force in undertaking humanitarian work,” Hutt Valley DHB CEO Graham Dyer said of their visit to the tent hospital.

“There are opportunities to work smarter between our organisations in order to better utilise resources that we have to support a whole-of-country approach and wider Pacific stability,” he added.

Brigadier Sean Trengrove, Director General of the NZ Defence Force’s Reserve Forces and Youth Development, said the Defence Force arranged the employers’ visit from 8-12 August to demonstrate the capability of the FST and other units in the NZ Defence Force’s Health Service Support System to carry out HADR in a challenging environment.

“The employers saw the volunteers and the reservist members of the FST at work in outreach clinics and at the tent hospital and were very impressed with what they saw,” according to Brig Trengrove.

“They now have a greater understanding of the contribution reservists make in support of the NZ Defence Force. Like their employees, they are keen to support the NZ Defence Force in developing systems that make it easier for both reservists and volunteers to engage.”

The Territorial Force or the Army Reserve is the part-time component of the NZ Army, with the mission to provide trained individuals, volunteers and formed groups of soldiers for overseas operations. It is one of the arms that the government may call upon to assist in case of a civil emergency.


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