Gingin shire’s Bob Kelly has received an international service award from Red Cross for his pragmatic and innovative approaches to improving the lives of vulnerable people affected by conflict, war and disasters.
Mr Kelly is the Shire of Gingin’s regulatory and development services executive manager.
Back in about 1989 Mr Kelly won a scholarship to the Army School of Health, where some Red Cross representatives were giving lectures, which inspired him to think about volunteering.
Red Cross was looking for people with his science and public health background and now more than 29 years later the organisation has recognised Mr Kelly for his dedication and service, which meant he often missed key milestones and sacrificed personal life events to be of service to humanity.
By August 1992 he was in Somalia as the relief administrator for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) before the American forces (United Nations) landed for Operation Restore Hope.
His brief was to provide humanitarian aid in the form of dry food and medical aid as well as veterinary support.
He also coordinated the first helicopter relief operation for the central Somalian coast.
In a speech about the role of environmental health officers within the ICRC Mr Kelly said the relief operation involved bringing food in ships from Mombasa in Kenya with helicopters then unloading the ships at sea.
After the food was stored it was then transported to isolated areas inland.
“The road convoys originating from this operation led to a road construction program,’’ he said.
“Three major airstrips were built to allow ICRC planes access to these remote isolated villages.’’
While there he commissioned 69 field kitchens, which fed 1000 to 6000 people twice a day and water wells were either repaired or constructed.
The veterinary program provided shepherds with appropriate vaccination for their stock and a tracing service repatriated displaced Somalis.
While in Somalia in 1992 the ICRC brought in more than 150,000 tonnes of food, helped 2.8 million people through its relief programs and treated 2 million animals against parasites.
Mr Kelly said there was a need for people with skills to give back and look after the most vulnerable.
“The missions I’ve done have changed my outlook on life,’’ he said.
“I’ve got a different attitude towards a whole lot of things.’’
Red Cross president Ross Pinney, in his citation on the award, acknowledged Mr Kelly’s exemplification of Red Cross principles and true spirit of unselfish volunteer service to those most vulnerable.
“Through his service, he has improved the quality of life for those affected by conflict, war and disasters,’’ he wrote.
“His pragmatic and innovative approaches to carrying out the mission at hand have delivered lasting results in each one of the missions he has been deployed on.
“Bob completed international deployments for both the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent.’’
Mr Pinney said in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mr Kelly was able to provide water and sanitation to about 50,000 refugees and at the same time provided shelter for Bosnian Serbs under detention and protection of the ICRC.
“He was recognised by both sides of the conflict as being impartial.’’
Mr Kelly also served in Rwanda, South Sudan, North Kenya, India and Bougainville.
In difficult and dangerous situations, Mr Pinney said Mr Kelly had earned the respect of his peers through his strength of character, integrity and focus on good governance.
“His leadership approach empowers those that work closely with him in the field and creates genuine team cohesiveness to deliver on projects that accomplished outcomes and gave hope to those most vulnerable.
“In Bougainville, Bob developed a policy that would sustain and support local infrastructure at the local government level.
“This contributed to the process of autonomy and self-determination in Bougainville and required cooperation between the interim and provincial government and community-based programs.’’
Mr Kelly said he felt a sense of achievement that he had been able to put in programs and infrastructure to help vulnerable people especially when civil war was involved.
These days fires and floods on the home front are the focus of his volunteer work.
A Red Cross spokeswoman said since 2013 there had been 17 Australian international service award recipients with four of them awarded in 2021.
This article appeared on Yanchep News Online on 29 September 2021.