Mercer alumna helps the Bahamas with the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot

The+Marsh+Harbour+Port+serves+as+a+logistics+port+in+Abaco+as+part+of+emergency+response+efforts+following+Hurricane+Dorian.
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Mercer alumna helps the Bahamas with the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot

The Marsh Harbour Port serves as a logistics port in Abaco as part of emergency response efforts following Hurricane Dorian.

The Marsh Harbour Port serves as a logistics port in Abaco as part of emergency response efforts following Hurricane Dorian.

Erin Brett

The Marsh Harbour Port serves as a logistics port in Abaco as part of emergency response efforts following Hurricane Dorian.

Erin Brett

Erin Brett

The Marsh Harbour Port serves as a logistics port in Abaco as part of emergency response efforts following Hurricane Dorian.

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The houses were flattened. Trees appeared more like sticks or twigs, all broken in two. Boats and shipping containers were strewn around the island, many far from the shore. Hurricane Dorian had devastated Abaco, a group of islands in the Bahamas. The storm surge there was estimated to be over 20 feet, bringing water and everything else with it.

“Things just moved,” Mercer alumna Erin Brett said.

Brett and her colleagues at the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot, a section of the World Food Programme that provides logistics support for non-food items during crises, were in the Bahamas to facilitate the movement of cargo from island to island.

“I really enjoyed being on the ground and seeing how the work that we do in the office in Italy translates into the field,” Brett said.

Elio Rujano
Erin Brett serves with the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot aiding in Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas.

This was Brett’s first humanitarian response, but she had worked with UNHRD and WFP before.

At Mercer in 2015, Brett became the first Mercer student to intern at UNHRD and facilitated communication between her university and the program.

Michael MacCarthy, Brett’s internship advisor, said that she was “shy yet personable,” and the kind of person that “leads from behind.”

“She’s not the first person to speak up, but she seems to take everything in,” MacCarthy said.

While in Brindisi, Italy, where one of the UNHRD hubs resides, she was learning how the program worked and completing a few projects, but Brett said she was mostly “floating around,” doing whatever they needed her to do.

This was not her first time serving abroad. Brett went on two Mercer On Mission trips with Laura Lackey, dean of the department of environmental engineering. In Uganda, they tested potential causes and solutions for the excess of iron in the water supply. In Kenya, they worked on water filters for the community.

As a parting gift, Brett had left Lackey a small photograph of the two of them that now rests in her office on the bookshelf near the door.

Lackey remembers Brett fondly.

“Her kindness is infectious,” Lackey said. “That’s like her biggest gift.”

Now working with UNHRD full time, Brett is able to continue the work she started at Mercer.

“I can’t pinpoint exactly that’s one thing that really like influenced it all, but it was the combination of everything,” Brett said. “The environment and the atmosphere. The quality of people that are at Mercer and those who are teaching you. They’re actually invested. All my professors are invested in me or my coaches are invested in it. So it’s easy to learn when you’re in that type of environment.”

Brett is back in Italy now, but is hopeful for the Bahamas.

“They’ll rebuild,” she said. “It’ll take time, but they’ll get back to it.”

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