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46 By the Dart • John Turner-Bone


part is meeting the people. “There aren’t many surprises - you roughly know what’s going to happen each day.” As much as John enjoyed the new pace of life there


was a part of him that missed the adrenaline fuelled car chases, late night police raids and overseas military exercises. So last year when he heard a BBC Radio 2 documentary about a charity called Team Rubicon UK (TR UK), which takes military and emergency services veterans out to disaster zones to help rebuild people’s lives, he instantly signed up. Less than a month later Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, killing 900 people and destroying whole villages. John knew this is exactly the kind of event TR UK members would get involved with, and sure enough the first email came through within days: “It said a recce team was being sent and they would follow up with a full group in the next week. I thought I’d never get picked as I hadn’t even done my induction but I might as well reply with a ‘yes’ to show willing.” Six days later John landed in Haiti.


Each team has an assignment, John’s


was to remove debris and build four new schools in villages destroyed by the hurricane. “We stayed in a hotel, well, I use that term in the loosest sense of the word,” smiles John. “We had one room between 12 of us with four fans constantly running! The food wasn’t bad but it was pretty much the same two choices every night for two weeks - goat or chicken with plantain.” John says the worst part of the role is seeing the absolute devastation a natural disaster can bring: “People’s homes were literally flattened but they’re still trying to live in amongst the remains as they have no where else to go. It means so much to them when we show up. I enjoy talking to the children who have so many questions and get very excited when they see a smart phone - they always want to flick through all your photos to get an idea of what life is like in England.” Most recently, in June, John spent a month in


Uganda as Incident Commander with TR UK, building new outdoor kitchens in seven schools in refugee settlements. The majority of residents were fleeing from conflict, natural disasters or famine in the Congo or South Sudan. John says even in the settlement life was very hard for them: “Some huts, and they weren’t big, housed up to 13 people - all crammed in. It was


“People’s homes were literally flattened but


they’re still trying to live in amongst the remains”


mainly women and children as husbands were often lost during conflict. They’re given land and have to fend for themselves with few handouts.” John says without the school kitchens women have to carry massive pots of food on their heads into the grounds where they heat them on a huge open fire – and if it rains the children don’t eat that day. When he isn’t rebuilding lives abroad John spends his time training other members of TR UK, maintaining his 27-year-old VW Golf GTi, walking his seven-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback cross Jasper and fishing on his boat. Over the last three summers John has removed, restored and double-glazed all of the original sash windows in his 1910 home. He says he has to admit he


does get excited when he hears the ping of a new email wondering where he might be sent to next. He enjoys the uncertainty of waking up not knowing whether he will be heading into town for a pint of milk or for some malaria tablets!


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