Youth who have survived a natural disaster often have insights that can help their communities prepare for future crises. International agencies recently tapped that knowledge, turning to survivors of the tsunami in Indonesia, an earthquake in Pakistan, and others who had encountered near-death situations or witnessed severe damage to their communities.
EDC’s International Education Systems Division co-hosted a five-day forum, “Disasters and the Aftermath: Building Youth Life Skills for Health and Education,” in Bangkok. Participants included youth from Aceh and Klaten in Indonesia, Islamabad and Rawalpindi in Pakistan, and four Andaman provinces of south Thailand, who exchanged ideas and experiences. EDC conducted the forum with UNICEF, USAID, and the Thailand Ministry of Public Health.
Young people had a rare chance to share experiences and concerns about the need for prevention systems, the impact of disasters on the education system, and the effects of trauma. Twelve-year-old Abdul Razaq from Pakistan talked about being buried under a classroom wall when an earthquake struck his hometown in 2005. He shared his dream of becoming a doctor, “so that I can help others who get injured like me,” he explained.
In addition to sharing their stories, participants learned ways to distribute information on disaster prevention, techniques to help others coping with loss, and strategies to encourage collaboration with adults and other organizations. On the last day, participants from each country showed one another their action plans to be implemented back home.
“I always wanted to know what we could do to prepare ourselves in case disaster struck again,” said 21-year-old Nongnutch Nairai from south Thailand. “The life skills we learned from this forum are very useful. If it happens again, I will do my best to take care of others and to console them as much as I can.”
“Young people have the necessary ability, the creativity, and the energy,” says EDC’s Steve Anzalone. “They can now go into the longer-term process of building back the community, bringing ideas to the table to help younger children deal with the aftermath.”
Originally published on September 1, 2007