Thailand Cave Rescue and Us,
a View from Africa
Gabriel C Banda
THE cave rescue efforts currently taking place in Chiang Rai, Thailand, provide key lessons to many of us, all over the world.
Since they went missing on Saturday, June 23, 2018, efforts to locate and rescue the members of a soccer team, of twelve youths and coach Ake, have involved goodwill and action by people all over the world.
It is a challenge of difficult natural conditions as well as a celebration of human goodwill and togetherness. It is a lesson on how people and institutions working in teamwork can overcome deep challenges.
This is humanity putting huge support and resources together to achieve a good thing. The same dedication can be applied to many other challenges we find in situations small and big.
Shown by the urgency of flooding and Monsoon rains threatening to pour big, Chiang Rai has been about how you put together many factors as you approach a big task.
It is about determination, resilience, and proper methods while we remain calm and in control of ourselves. It is about not giving up on ourselves and on others. It has been about connecting with our other parts who are elsewhere.
Immediately, the missing of the youth soccer team was of great concern. From many places of the world, many followed, on television and media, Thailand’s Chiang Rai events.
And from many places of the world, many came to help the soccer team members. They joined the Thai workers in the search. Some were employees sent by institutions while some were experienced persons that were volunteering.
In the bowels of Tham Luang Nang Non mountain cave, the gathered team of humanity searched. These, the Chiang Rai soccer team members, are our brothers.
The rescue effort, using various skills and methods, was steady and getting closer. On Monday, July 2, there was great relief when rescuers on the frontline encountered the team and it was known all team members were alive and active.
Among others from Thailand and various parts of the world, the cave diving team from Britain had included Rick William Stanton, John Volanthen, and Robert Charlie Harper. They had explored Tham Luang Nang Non cave before.
Of course, the rescuer that television shows in first contact and talk was just on the frontline in a team supported by many others, working together at the same time, and in various places.
It may not be accurate to say the team was discovered by the shown rescuer from Britain. We do not surely know. This may be inaccuracy from media reporting rather than the rescuer’s fault.
But through his approach, we learn from that frontline contact rescuer from Britain, the combination of skill, calmness, timing, and human relations in difficult situations. He was calm and deeply sympathetic, trying to feel with them and be reassuring. There was deep humanity. The voice was gentle, polite, and reassuring.
The contact was a great example from a person that is anchored, mature, considerate, and deeply reaching out to another in soul to soul. We realise that goodwill from participants was deeply evident, thus moving the rescue towards success.
Release and Families
The rescue team kept reaching, supporting, and nourishing the soccer team members in various ways. Both rescuers and soccer team members made extensive preparation for evacuation.
Sadly, in the process of supporting the team, on July 5 there was the death of volunteer worker Samarn Poonan. He died in noble action.
The rescue team calmly kept on learning and planning. And through that careful planning and teamwork, on Sunday, July 8, four boys were brought out of the cave. Many in the world prayed that with continuous learning by the rescuers and authorities, the rest of the operation should succeed.
When some of the boys have been rescued and evacuated out, they seem embargoed. Authorities have not released them to their families but confined them to hospitals, initially without physical contact with their families. It was later explained that authorities did not want to risk infections from conditions got from the caves.
Yes, but of course, there could have been other considerations, such as the fact that immediately releasing the boys to their separate families could not only have affected team work in the boys and families but that the authorities and teams needed to concentrate on completing the rescue.
There was also risk that boys released early to their families could have led to a situation of confused information and even panic as the boys and families could have been giving some narrations that may have greatly affected some things.
And, of course, being an older mentor and like the captain of a ship, the coach, if in good health, is expected to be the last team member to be evacuated.
Teamwork, as International Space Station Zarya
There has been great teamwork within the rescue team, within the soccer team, and across various persons and teams. This was an international effort. It was about humanity first.
The Thailand rescue mission reminds us of the International Space Station, “Zarya,” which I like to watch as it passes our space over Lusaka, Zambia. The space station has persons in it. They are citizens of various governments, including those of Russia, USA, Canada, Japan, and Europe.
So while there may be tension involving the establishments of USA, UK, and others against Russia, since 1998, in space, their citizens have been cooperating in driving the space station and doing experiments and observations.
When we move away from narrow and closed nationalisms such as components of “America First,” Brexit, and other human isolations and exclusions and instead embrace our common humanity that is a basis of life, we can deeply achieve. As the Thailand cave rescue mission has shown, let us have Humanity First, and, deeper still, Life First.
Learning and Classroom
Chiang Rai has been about understanding a situation and its challenges and then using opportunities and windows available. It was about thorough planning and preparation. It was about team work. It was about leadership and guidance.
The exercise was about connecting to other humans and effectively working together for the Common Good.
Learning and classrooms are everywhere and all the time. Capacity building is continuous. An army is always training so that it is always ready for various challenges that may emerge.
All fields of life should have persons training in them and building expertise. These will come in handy at some point, near or far, home or abroad, now or in future. A society must always be prepared and alert in all fields.
Persons dealing with rescue service, the military, disaster relief, psychology and counselling in crisis, and other fields, should study the Thailand cave rescue event. They should study it both in Thailand and in their own groups at home.
My prayer has been that people from Africa and other parts of the world should rush to Thailand to witness and study the rescue. They may go there now or even later, for the lessons do not end and still need to be studied.
For example, Zambia’s government could send a team that includes experts and instructors from rescue services, military commando unit, mines department, medicine and health, communications, psychology and counselling, cultures, and disaster management.
They can go to Thailand not only to learn about rescue approaches but to also contribute to the effort. Amongst other experiences, Zambia has built much capacity in drilling and rescue over mining incidents.
The team members could then come back and work with their sectors and together on various issues of rescue and emergencies. The Chiang Rai experience is good learning for everyone.
The 2018 Thailand Chiang Rai international cave operation should remain a major lesson in humanitarian rescue.
GCB, June/July 2018, by Monday, July 09th, 2018, LUSAKA
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