Joe Cooke in China
By Joe Cooke
Construction manager, Joe Cooke from Malton has been working in the earthquake hit region of Sichuan in China. He tells us about this emotional and life changing experience...
From the moment JCB pledged six backhoe loader machines to help Sichuan, it was non-stop concentration for four weeks on doing the best we possibly could to help the affected people.
This was both rewarding and emotional as my demonstration team and I went through the best life learning experience one could have.
The loaders working in the affected area
My responsibilities were to ensure the backhoe loaders were used effectively, to train local people to use them and to look after my team who would live in the disaster area.
Within a couple of days in the disaster area, I had a completely new understanding of the meaning of life. I also learnt a lot about myself and what I saw compelled me to use every minute wisely to help the affected people.
We are a strong group of people although none of us had been prepared for any experience like this.
Being involved in the earthquake drilled home one of the old values of the late Joseph Cyril Bamford, founder of JCB, which was acting with a sense of urgency. Everything we started had to be done with this in mind and the Sichuan people depended on it.
Earthquake damage close to the epicentre
My military experience became invaluable when looking after myself and the team as we lived in the disaster areas and we had to be prepared for further trouble.
We took a lot of special equipment with us on our 2,200km journey by road including safety equipment, medical supplies, extra food and water, cooking equipment, sleeping bags, tools, radios and breathing equipment.
How to improvise, plan quickly, instill confidence and restore morale to the team all came rushing back to me as we prepared for a situation which we could not be sure was under control.
What we found was an extraordinary scene of devastation and suffering alongside compassion, order brought from the Chinese army and generosity such as that from overseas donors and aid workers.
Some things weren’t nice and our working conditions were hard but at the end of the day, I know we will be better off both as people and in our work because of it all.
Creating a camp for the homeless
Some days you felt good up in the beautiful mountains, opening blocked roads with the loader or making tent camps for those affected. Some days, especially those working in schools, you felt very low, walking among rucksacks, text books and shoes strewn about the floor.
The Chinese army were very grateful for our help although we encountered our own problems such as the continued threat of aftershocks.
The first people we trained to use the machines were bus drivers and had no experience at all. On top of all this, we worked in dangerous conditions while having to be self sufficient in everything we needed.
last updated: 12/06/2008 at 17:15