PADF & Taiwan Train Next Generation of First Responders in St. Vincent

Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (October 13, 2015) — Today, 106 youth graduated from an 18-month training program to help them prepare for and respond to natural disasters and the effects of climate change.  

Funded by the Government of Taiwan and implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the Resilient Livelihoods project develops the next generation of first responders and empowers youth as agents of change in their communities.

The islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including coastal flooding and landslides. Forty percent of the country’s population is at risk of mortality from two or more hazards including an active volcano.  

“Where we live is vulnerable,” says 26–year-old Natalia Bhajan, a Resilient Livelihoods program participant from Georgetown, St. Vincent. “That’s why the people in our area need to be educated. At the end of the day, I want us to go out and teach other people.”

Youth from the communities of Georgetown, Spring Village and the island of Bequia received training with a custom disaster risk reduction and climate change curriculum. With the help of local partners, they learned first aid, fire safety, as well as how to use handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to map areas in the community that are most vulnerable to hazards. 

“Taiwan is happy to help make communities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines more resilient,” says Bau-Shuan Ger, Ambassador of Taiwan to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “This project has successfully equipped young people with the knowledge and tools they need to prepare for climate change, which affects us all.”

After the training, each group carried out hazard mapping exercises with their newfound GPS skills and developed community-driven contingency plans. Also, each group identified and executed community-led projects to improve infrastructure and ecosystems to make the island less vulnerable to disasters.

In Georgetown, an aging bridge was repaired and reinforced. In addition, a vegetative buffer was planted to mitigate flood damage and the local hazard map was painted as a mural for the entire community to reference. On the island of Bequia, the group carried out key ecological restoration activities, including the reforestation of vital coastline to prevent beach erosion. In Spring Village, an ongoing project is upgrading the drainage infrastructure in the community, which is essential to preventing and mitigating the disastrous effects of flooding in the area.  

“The projects have really served to motivate a wonderful group of young people,” says Christobelle Ashton, PADF Project Coordinator. “I like to see growth in people. I like it when they take initiative. Through the participants’ network, they help each other grow. You can see transformation taking place.”

About PADF

The non-profit foundation of the Organization of American States, PADF operates throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to generate economic opportunities, advance social progress, strengthen civil society, and prepare for and respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. In 2014, the Foundation reached more than 15 million people in 27 countries.