How to Save Lives with Logistics

Jack O'Connell 07.05.2014

Most forward thinking companies have a defined Corporate Social Responsibility policy, but sometimes it’s a case that when all is said and done, there’s more said than done. I spoke to one person who is both talking the talk and walking the walk, and he is looking for some support from the corporate sector in Ireland.

Will Holden, founder of the Irish Emergency Logistics Team, has over 20 years of experience within private sector Supply Chain & Logistics operations in Ireland, UK, Europe, the US, and Afghanistan. Over the last five years he was also a member of the Logistics Emergency Team with the World Food Programme. Will set up the IELT in November of last year and he needs volunteers and support. He is currently working as the Head of Logistics & Procurement in Iraq/Kurdistan for an NGO.

So Will, what is the Irish Emergency Logistics Team?

The Irish Emergency Logistics Team (IELT) is setting out to put together a team of professional logisticians who are equipped with the leading edge knowledge and core competencies to provide a suite of logistics and supply chain management support to NGO’s.

What do you do?


The Irish Emergency Logistics Team is targeting sudden onset emergencies where there is a need to supply logistics and supply chain experts for four to six week periods. We also aim to support refugee crises such as in Syria by placing experts throughout the camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq/Kurdistan. But we also aim to support NGO’s in the normal running of their operations too. Back office logistics is not the sexiest thing in the world, but it does make it turn that bit easier. We are also in discussion with a National Not for Profit operation about working at home too, but more of that once we agree parameters. So our remit will be both National and International.

Why get involved? 

This is an opportunity for professional logisticians to help people who are in need of support and expertise. There may be plenty of people who look at terrible images in the media who have wished that they could put their logistics and supply chain skills to good use. This is an opportunity to get involved in a unique project which is being trialled in Ireland. 

What types of volunteer are you looking for exactly?

We are specifically looking for professional logisticians from all over Ireland, all skill sets in all sectors of industry. We want individuals who have the drive and determination to work through some of the most difficult situations. This is NOT for the faint hearted. There will be hard work, long hours, tough conditions and most of the people who may benefit from your endeavours may neither know, nor care. However, the sense of achievement is unbelievable. You will never forget the experience, and you will be able to do something of real purpose that does affect the lives of those most in need. 

Where in the world are the IELT active at the moment?

As we are in the development stage of the operation we are not active yet. However while we set up in Nov 2013 I have been working towards the goal of setting up the Irish Emergency Logistics Team for a couple of years. This is a slow, methodical process. We will not rush into deployment just to make the headlines. We have lodged an application with a worldwide Logistics & Supply Chain organisation to certify our training program, Certificate in Humanitarian and Emergency Logistics Principles. We are also in discussion with an Irish Government Department with the aim of taking part in simulation training. Once the initial training is complete then we will have a team who can assist NGO’s where called upon. 

Is it dangerous?

It can be. That is why we are ensuring that everyone who takes part and is a fully signed up member of the IELT will have to be trained to as high a level as possible so that they will know how to deal with certain situations. But that is the extreme end of the business, extreme volunteering as it is known in the US.

We will more than likely be asked to support an NGO in their head office too. Maybe the NGO needs to send some of their general staff to the other side of the world at short notice. Our professional logisticians can and will be expected to jump into any situation and deal with whatever is thrown at them. We will however endeavour to keep our team members in the back office support roles as often as possible. You can be as likely to support an NGO in Kerry as in Kurdistan!

What should someone do if they would like to get involved?

As we are looking for financial support from the Corporate Sector, ideally someone who is interested will be working as a logistician in a company that also has a strong Corporate Social Responsibility profile. We intend to build long term relationships not just with individuals but also with companies who find that this is a project they would like to support.

There is a cost to running this operation, regardless of how Lean a project this is, so we need people who are willing to fund raise in many weird and wonderful ways so that we can be prepared in every way possible if, and when, another natural disaster hits such as in the Philippines in Nov 2013. But anyone who wants to affect change should contact the IELT.

If you are a logistics professional who is driven, determined and who wants to make a difference, please get in touch with Will.

The IELT website is currently in developmental stage but you can see it here.

Also Will is available to connect on LinkedIn here.

Jack O'Connell's picture
Consultant | Supply Chain - Logistics, Transport and Warehouse Recruitment