Saving Jimani, while recounting the experiences and emotions of a seasoned veteran and a rookie volunteer, is truly a window to the soul of every disaster volunteer. Wracked by self-doubt and alienated from those they love the most, due to those loved ones incomprehension of calling or purpose, these volunteers are continually haunted by the images of those they could not save, yet they carry on believing they can and should make a difference.
For the previous international disaster volunteer who reads Saving Jimani the smells of open decaying wounds, rotting garbage, open sewage and diesel fumes will waft from the pages. They will recall the overwhelming feeling of “so many patients, so few resources and so little time”. They will be able to relate to the difficult decisions, the innovative solutions and the bizarre behavior at times of other team members. The former disaster volunteers will “get it.” They will smile as they recall a similar situation and cringe as they remember a comparably bad experience.
For the average person who reads this book it will provide that glimpse into what is experienced and felt emotionally by disaster volunteers who willingly go to places in the world where everyone else is trying to flee. It will only be a glimpse though, because until you see with your own eyes the natural or man-made devastation first hand, hear the cries for help of the trapped as they fade, smell the pungent odor of death wafting through the morning air and feel the weight of the limp lifeless form you now hold in your arms which no one could save, you will never truly understand that “feeling of impending doom” until you have experienced it.
Saving Jimani should be required pre-deployment reading for all disaster volunteers. While many organizations carrying out disaster response operations typically train, equip and provide for the physical needs of their volunteers, very few spend much, if any, time explaining the myriad of complex emotions the volunteer is likely to experience and thus sets them up for deep emotional scars and the very real possibility of being Overcome By Events.
I commend Rene Steinhauer for opening himself up and exposing to the reader a clear picture of his drive, dedication, humanity, along the raw emotions which accompanied his challenging and self-sacrificing work. While a piece of one’s heart may be chipped away with each subsequent disaster response experience, Rene has a very large heart. By bravely sharing his most personal thoughts and emotions through Saving Jimani, Rene’s work will no doubt help to assuage feelings of guilt from disaster responders and to validate as normal the feelings of un-certainty, anguish and loneliness.
Allen G. Lewis, B.Sc., S.A.C. Dip.
Personal Security Specialist / Paramedic
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