Profiles in Courage: Alisha and Paloma
This is the fourth installment in the Profiles in Courage series in which photojournalist Morgana Wingard compiles snapshots and sound bites from USAID and Disaster Assistance Response Team staff on the front lines of the Ebola response. Here she talks to two U.S. Government Information Officers, the team that trafficks in facts and keeps the lines of information open so that the DART team’s efforts are coordinated and efficient.
Though Alisha McMichael and Paloma Clohossey’s jobs on the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) aren’t as high profile as the health care workers who suit up in protective gear everyday, one could argue that their role is just as vital to the U.S. response.
“Alisha and Paloma bring all the threads of the operation together for reporting and information collection — they know the ins and the outs of the response as a whole,” said Bill Berger, the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader.
They are the DART’s Information Officers – also known as ‘IOs.’: the information gurus who compile, collate and verify all the information about the U.S. Government’s Ebola response efforts and the crisis at large. After absorbing every last detail and fact, they distribute them to team members on the ground and back to Washington, D.C. so that everyone is on the same page and has the correct information they need, when they need it.
In a disaster response environment – especially one like the Ebola epidemic, where everyday the international community is navigating new territory – information is critical. Alisha and Paloma constantly take in and filter information to ensure they’re up to date on the latest — no easy feat given the ever-evolving situation as the crisis progresses and the U.S. response gains momentum.
In fact, Alisha has been dubbed the DART’s ‘sync-master,’ responsible for tracking daily the progress of Ebola treatment units, community care centers, trainings for health care workers, burial teams, airlifts of relief supplies, and other response efforts – following the military’s Sync Matrix model. Meanwhile, Paloma writes daily updates about the situation on the ground to inform Washington and communicate key gaps, challenges and successes.
Being a DART IO requires a lot of attention to detail and long days, but working 24/7 doesn’t get them down.
“The best part by far,” says Paloma, “is getting to have the opportunity to do work that feels meaningful. I’ve been given a chance to contribute to something that I believe in.”
Adds Alisha, “This is a great team, and I know everyone gives their best everyday. That feels good.”