Georgetown, Guyana – (March 22, 2018) As the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) continues to intensify its efforts to build capacity in community disaster risk management and preparedness, the Commission through a partnership with the United Nations’ Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), today, handed over more than 30 pieces of fire safety equipment as well as a number of garbage bins to the St. Ignatius Secondary School, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine). The donation is part of the UNESCO-funded USD$15000 Youth Engagement for Community-Based Disaster Risk Management Project, which was launched in January of this year.
The project targets youth involvement in disaster preparedness through sensitisation workshops where students learn about hygiene and hazards during a natural disaster. The items donated include two five-pound carbon dioxide fire extinguishers, six 10-pound chemical powder extinguishers, one first aid kit, seven fire buckets, one procedure poster, one beneficiary sign, one assembly point sign, and 22 additional signs to map out an evacuation route in case of a disaster as well as a number of garbage bins to aid its hygiene practices.
In handing over the equipment to Headmistress, Ms. Yvette Archer, acting Director General of the CDC, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig said that the organisation has recognised the growing role the youth population plays in disaster risk management and, therefore, thought is necessary to develop the programme.
“This region is very vulnerable to floods, to droughts as well as health hazards. For years, the CDC has been working behind the scenes to come up with a project that can directly involve the youths in schools and what we realised is that children and youths are the means of getting over the message and changing the culture of disaster risk management in the country. They can influence their homes and then their communities and if the communities can change then the region can change, thereby effecting a change in the country. The posture that the CDC is taking is not to be reactive and only respond when something happens but being proactive and putting preparations in place,” he said.
Planning and Training Assistant of the CDC, Ms. Allana Walters, while giving an overview of the project in Region Nine, said that the students were engaged in educational activities and sessions, in which they were asked to identify the risks and hazards in their school environment.
“They told us what happened here and our volunteers were able to guide them as to what disaster risk management is, what are hazards, how to identify hazards, how they affected you in the community and how they can be addressed. After they were engaged, they were able to identify the hazards in this school that directly affected them and they were guided to come up with some corrective measures. As such, we were able to come up with fire prevention materials so that the school can be better prepared to deal with any fires. The second hazard [that was identified] was improper garbage disposal and so we have also brought the bins,” she said.
The Headmistress expressed her gratitude to the Commission and UNESCO for the donation and said that many times the school’s administration has felt forgotten due to its location but this donation she said, demonstrates that the Government cares about inclusivity and equality. “That speaks well for us because many times we feel that we are forgotten because we are at the bottom of the map but this a testimony to what is happening; the thoughts of the Government and the other agencies and developmental projects of Guyana. So we are happy. We are moving forward. St. Ignatius Secondary is moving forward,” she said.
One of the students who participated in the project, Ms. Deanella Spencer said that it has been informative and transformative. “It was a really interesting project and we were able to identify the things that are affecting our school and developing actions to prevent them. From that project, I have taken back some of what I have learnt to my community and my family,” she said.
This Disaster Risk Management Project is a pilot initiative of the CDC and UNESCO that benefits three schools in three regions across Guyana. St. Cuthbert’s Secondary School, Demerara-Mahaica (Region Four) and Vryman’s Even Secondary, East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) are the other beneficiaries.