Volunteering while studying: TSF 14-year partnership with the Asian Institute of Technology

Publication date: Sep 14, 2018 05:28 PM - Last modication date: Sep 24, 2018 03:40 PM
For 14 years TSF has been working with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) to recruit volunteers for the Asia-Pacific region.

The volunteer program is open to all AIT students with computer and telecoms skills (particularly students from Telecommunications, ICT, Computer Science, Information Management, Disaster Preparedness Mitigation and Management, and Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems). In the framework of this partnership, AIT has been hosting TSF's Regional base for Asia-Pacific since 2004 and TSF has been training an average of 10 students per year. AIT students have been deployed across the Asia-Pacific on many occasions, and volunteers from AIT have been involved in several of our missions, the last one being the earthquake in Lombok, where Asmita Khadka joined our team for the first time.

Asmita Khadka: an AIT student joining a TSF mission

Asmita, ex-student in Disaster Risk Management at AIT, accepted to tell us her experience with AIT and TSF.

"Originally from Nepal, I moved to Bangkok in 2016 to study. Before joining a PhD, I completed a Master in Disaster Preparedness,  Mitigation and Management (DPMM) from AIT. During that time, I attended a training conducted by TSF and since then I have been in the roster. I finally had the opportunity to join TSF’s mission in Indonesia in August 2018.

It was a great experience. I got out of my comfort zone, and I realized that you actually need physical and mental strength to cope with stress triggered by the sight of damage and sufferings. If you are in a disaster-affected location, there is always the fear of aftershocks that can affect your mental state. You need to be able to handle such stressful factors and continue to focus on supporting the affected population.

As I myself experienced an earthquake when I was living in Nepal in 2015, I could really understand what the population was going through and how important is it to communicate with family in such time of distress, especially with those abroad.

The community in that northern part of the Island is poor; they are mostly peasants and farmers. Many went to work overseas in Malaysia or in the Middle East. Therefore, it was very important for those who remained in the country to contact their relatives abroad to ask for help.

Providing telephony service to the affected ones was a very rewarding experience for me. I remember one particular caller. She was a teen living with only her grandmother since her mother was working in a middle-eastern country. As she came forward to use the service, she looked excited and was smiling. But as soon as she started talking to her mother, she burst into tears. After the call, she told me that it was the first time she talked to her mother since the earthquake struck a few days ago."

Getting ready for the field

By training specialized AIT students of more than 60 nationalities, TSF builds upon the richness of many different profiles in this part of the world.

Every 6 month a training session is conducted with 10 new AIT volunteers. The purpose of these workshops is to train the students to respond to any type of crisis and to set up the telecommunication equipment used by our teams in the field.  After the session, they enter a roster and can be called at any time to join one of our mission.

For students like Asmita being trained by TSF and then experience the field is a very rewarding achievement. Télécoms Sans Frontières is very proud of this long time partnership with AIT, but more importantly, TSF is very grateful for the commitment and engagement of all the students we trained.