Operation Bridgegap: Reflections from Ronin Jong
After hearing about the organization during my previous service with another NGO, I joined Team Rubicon Canada (TRC) last year ready to tackle earthquakes, floods, muckouts, tornadoes, and other ‘big’ incidents as I had been doing elsewhere for almost a decade, but with the added TRC ‘secret sauce’. Who better to take on a disaster than military veterans, first responders, and kickass civilians? However, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged TRC’s typical operational capabilities and we ended up collaborating with a local food bank in north Toronto.
My first deployment with Team Rubicon Canada was quite unexpected to me. I initially distributed food hampers, but as the weeks progressed I found myself performing computer work on intake and appointment scheduling. At times I filled in as TRC’s Strike Team Leader on site. I learned more and more about a food bank’s operations as time passed and discovered that there’s more to them than I thought. There’s distributing items, intake processes, appointment processes, logistics, listening to and helping food bank clients, locating and relocating to different distribution sites, and much more. I’ve worked with food ops before but not to this extent. The long lineups reminded me of my past deployment in the Bahamas and the impression was amplified by the weather’s impact on clients’ patience and anxiety levels. Prior to the pandemic, this local food bank averaged around 75-100 families per week. This figure jumped to over 250 per week.
When I told folks about my experience with TRC, they realized that what I’ve been doing is in fact disaster response, despite the unusual format for TRC. This reminded me of Team Rubicon’s ‘x’ logo, which had confused some of my friends and family. Why not the traditional ‘cross’ that signifies first aid and disaster operations? TR takes a different perspective of and approach to an incident; the ‘x’ is a cross on it’s side, which to me, means we need to be willing to think beyond convention to help people. Sometimes getting s*** done means that we step in and fill the gaps that others are unable to do by themselves. Like my previous experiences in the disaster response world have taught me, no one is an island because even islands are part of the same planet. Every person that we helped became another example of the connection, community, and purpose that we all strive towards. Being different is good if it’s effective, and the results of this operation are proof of this. I’m seeing what a huge impact we’re having with the food bank clients in the community, and I’m honoured to have served on this feeding operation as my first TRC deployment.