First man in the disaster zone

2019/01/02

First man in the disaster zone

When earthquakes and tsunamis wreak havoc, Craig Williams enters the inferno to find routes to recovery. Often together with Grundfos and the Poul Due Jensen Foundation.

“I build bridges”. Craig Williams is not one for official titles or job descriptions. Instead, he turns to this trusted one-liner.

The former UN delegate is NGO Water Mission’s go-to parachute into the most damaged and seemingly hopeless of scenes. His mission is to find the fastest, most consistent immediate paths in and out of the area. From earthquakes in Nepal to the recent multi-disaster in Indonesia, chaos is the rule and planning impossible.

“There is always a way but be prepared to change plans constantly. I have always loved the saying that no strategy ever survives the first encounter with the enemy. It is true. The rules of the game change all the time,” explains Craig Williams, Strategic Partnerships Manager for Water Mission – when pressed for a title.

Craig Williams
Craig Williams in Bjerringbro on a recent visit to the Poul Due Jensen Foundation

A self-confessed multi-tasker, he has developed a streetwise approach and a nose
for networking with the right people.

“I will go in and find out who is doing what and where. I will make friends with someone from a logistics company willing to help with free transport. I will team up with other organizations at the scene. Negotiate with local government. Find anyone who speaks English. Basically, try to find a straight path through all these players.”

So much sadness
Despite his focus and discipline, melancholy follows Craig Williams when facing human tragedy. And he would not have it any other way.

"You cannot avoid getting affected. Many times, during my spell in a disaster zone, I will sit down, and I will just cry. The day it does not affect me, is the day I stop. I know that, when it affects me, I am going to try harder,” he admits.

“Yes, you see some ugly things, and you smell some even uglier things. You see so much sadness. You see people who had nothing and lost everything, if that even makes sense. But the mission is very simple; the faster I can put a logistics in operation, the faster engineers can come and solve the problems.”

Shared values
Throughout his time with Water Mission, Craig Williams has enjoyed a great partnership with the Poul Due Jensen Foundation. For the current crisis in Indonesia, Grundfos offered storing facilities and logistics to be used for transportation of water treatment filters, chlorination units, pumps and generators.

Bringing safe water to the scene as early as possible is a high priority
Bringing safe water to the scene as early as possible is a high priority

“Around the world, I meet Grundfos people that open the door. I never met one where I did not think ‘wow, that is a caliber person’. They do what is right, not what is best for themselves. When people do the right thing at the right time, you can move mountains,” explains Craig Williams.

Well-functioning partnerships between NGOs and businesses, he says, are founded on common humanistic ground.

“There is a lot of alignment of values between Water Mission and Grundfos. It is not
just about engineering and products we can use. It is also about a drive to serve the forgotten few.”