I think it's finally time I explained myself.... We are currently in the midst of our ICO (in country orientation) training and are staying at the Philippine Rice Institute- and guess what we've been eating? The irony is killing me, as well as the slogans around the campus such as "Riceponsible!" ...get it??? Okay I'm gonna stop with the rice... The ICO week is to get us ready for deployment into the community and to basically gives us a clearer idea of what we will be doing for the next 12 weeks! (My earlier blogs are deliberately vague, because I still had very little information on the specifics!) So here goes.... As you probably know the Philippines is the third most disaster risk country worldwide. The community where I will be working- the Municipality of Cabiao (pronouned 'cab- bee-owww') is one of the lowest areas of Nuvea Ecija ('New-v-eh-see-ah') and so sometimes the area serves as a catchment for all the flood waters of the province. This is further aggravated by the frequency of monsoon and cyclone rains that visit the area every year. As a result, flooding has become a regular occurrence for the citizens of Cabiao. But because of he threat of more serious natural disasters (such as volcanoes), flood disaster prevention and preparedness has not been prioritised. At present, the municipality has no solid disaster risk reduction management plan that would reduce the community's vulnerability to the risk of flooding. Our aim is to create a 5-year plan for the community and present in to the mayor in 12 weeks (no pressure then!) Two more sets of volunteers will then follow on with our work with the aim of making the community self-sufficient- so it is important that the plan is made with the community at its heart, because these are the people who will eventually implement the plan and rely on it for their safety, This 'plan' is called a DRRM (sorry for all the accronyms!)- a disaster risk reduction management plan. By working alongside the community of Cabiao we will create a plan for the WORST case scenario of flooding- so that the community is always fully prepared. (This is actually called a CBDRRM because it is a 'community-based' plan). Of course I'm no expert in flooding (the most I've experienced is a burst river bank blocking my route to work!) But the locals are... And my role is to extract this knowledge and then process and organise it into an effective flood disaster plan. So that everyone in the community is on the same page. Because failing to plan is planning to fail. To cover the whole of Cabiao's 72,000 citizens (who apparently all know each other), the 20 of us will divide into sub-teams and spread out within the community, working with 3/4 barangays (small communities within communities). We will then: 1. Interview 50% of the community (by random sample) to find out about local flood knowledge. 2. Conduct community risk assessment workshops in order to find gaps in local knowledge about dealing with flood. From this information we will be able to carry out: 3. Youth camps (involving drama, sport etc...) to teach young people about what to do in the case of flood. 4. Community workshops (that are apparently very intense and 7 hours long!) We will be taught in flood management techniques (such as using life jackets, creating ration packs etc..) and then we will share this information with the community. And finally: 5. We will start to build a local volunteer network, who will be specifically trained with how to deal with and- more importantly- manage flood disaster. There are currently only 30 volunteers in the whole of Cabiao and the aim is to recruit 460 by the end of the programme (20 per barangay)! It's not only about helping people. But helping people help themselves. We have a massive challenge in front of us, but we have been blessed with a goal to aim for. It's gonna be tough. Frustrating. And apparently we will cry. But after watching a short documentary (posted below) about the effectiveness of DRRM in another Filipino community- I was able to see the positive change that we could bring to the people of Cabiao if we our successful in our mission. What I crucially understood was that the example community did not just have a plan, but a good plan and one that works for that specific community and its people. So well in fact, that local economy now trades off DRRM, with the community building and selling life rafts to other towns. http://vimeo.com/68274932 I don't want to just bring about change in Cabiao. But positive change.