When Nurse Sharon heard about the devastating 7.8-magnitude Nepal earthquake, she began gathering as much information as she could about the disaster.
A 16-year volunteer with Medical Teams International, Tissell has a heart for humanitarian work and the desire to drop everything to help those in need. She loves it. Humanitarian work is fulfilling, she said. And that’s why when she hears about a disaster, she all but has her bags packed.t
“For anyone who has a heart for humanitarian work, once a disaster is on the news, it’s on your radar screen,” she said.
For Tissell it’s simple: People with a passion for humanitarian aid want to serve. “You can imagine the shock people are going through,” she added. “To me, it’s very logical.”
In Nepal, Tissell hiked through the mountains in search of people with medical needs, conducted health assessments and treated a few patients. While this is all commonplace in disaster response scenarios, Tissell called the Nepal mission atypical – different from the others she’s been on. While she hasn’t seen as many patients as in past missions, she has been very active conducting health needs assessments throughout villages that dot Nepal’s hilly landscape.
As she crisscrosses the country, the most striking thing for her is the level of destruction. Some villages have been completely obliterated. In the rural village of Choku, near the Chinese border, only one of the several hundred structures there is inhabitable. There’s been untold disruption to electricity, water and food.
“It’s devastating that for many, they have to rebuild more than what they can actually do,” Tissell said.
She heard anecdotally that 32 people died in the village. Everybody there seemed to have a story, she said.
“In every community, people are touched by the deaths,” she said.
Disaster response volunteers like Tissell hope to help those with the most serious medical needs. But it’s rarely as simple as getting off the plane and treating patients. Particularly in Nepal, the rugged terrain poses challenges. High in the mountains, there are questions awaiting answers.
It’s not easy, but Tissell said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Relief efforts in Nepal highlight how volunteers have to search high and low for people with the most need. That search is fulfilling, Tissell said, especially when that moment comes when volunteers know they’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.
“We want to help anyway we can,” she said. “Sometimes, if we can’t do the most critical needs, we fill in wherever we can. It’s about coming alongside.”