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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. www.padf.org

10 Easy Ways to Repel Mosquitoes, Stay Healthy

Credit:  John Tann  via Flickr

Credit: John Tann via Flickr

Viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes can be very serious. According to international health organizations, these diseases are an increasing threat to human health as the environment changes and globalization increases. Both dengue fever and the chikungunya virus are transmitted by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, which are found in most countries in the Americas. 

According to the Pan American Health Organization, there is no vaccine for Chikungunya. The only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals against mosquito bites.

Ten Ways You Can Reduce Your Risk Now

  1. Use screens on windows and doors.

  2. Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, socks and shoes when mosquitoes are most active.

  3. Use mosquito repellents.

  4. Check your house and yard for water-filled containers and throw away or recycle unwanted containers that collect standing water.

  5. Create a DIY mosquito trap for your home

  6. Turn over or store under a roof any large containers that collect water, like boats, buckets, tires, and garbage cans.

  7. Clean animal drinking bowls weekly to wash away eggs.

  8. Dump the water from overflow dishes under flower pots.

  9. Cover rain barrels with screening so mosquitoes cannot enter.

  10. Educate yourself and your community about the risks of mosquito-borne illness.

This list is excerpted from our custom curriculum on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, created for PADF's Resilient Livelihoods Program in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Lessons Learned from St. Vincent Christmas Floods

Spring Village is a rural community of less than 5,000 residents in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It’s an hour-and-a-half drive from the island’s capital of Kingstown up winding, mountain roads. Perched on a steep hill, the village is highly vulnerable to floods after heavy rains. To make matters worse, many residents are living inside or at the edge of a dry riverbed, which is subject to flash floods.  

Sheila Jeffrey Robertson, 45, recalls how she and her kids narrowly escaped from their home during the 2013 floods.

“Nobody knew,” she says, shaking her head. “Nobody had any time to run.”

Sheila Robertson explains how the flood waters damaged her home and scattered debris around her property. 

Sheila Robertson explains how the flood waters damaged her home and scattered debris around her property. 

PADF is working in Spring Village to train a group of youth to prepare for and respond to disasters like this. The group learned first aid, fire safety and how to use GPS devices to map the areas in the community that are most vulnerable.

When the rain started to fall heavily, Sheila ran to the store to buy some candles in case they lost power. She remembers water getting into her shoes as she walked home. By the time she reached the house, it was up to her knees.

“The drains were filled to the brim,” she says. From her living room, she looked out the window to see the riverbed covered in water. “I’d never seen the stones covered,” she recalls.  

The village had no early warning system for storms. A neighbor came and told Sheila it was time to evacuate. She grabbed her youngest son and tossed him over the gate, running back inside to get her son and daughter. They got out just before water started coming into the house. The damage was so extensive that she had to rebuild and completely refurnish her home.

Sheila is happy that PADF is working to inform youth in the community about the risks of flooding. The group is planning a project to improve drainage systems and implement an early warning mechanism when the water is rising.  

“It would benefit us a lot,” she says.

DIY Mosquito Trap Reduces Exposure to Chikungunya

Click  here  to download the instructions as a .pdf file.

Click here to download the instructions as a .pdf file.

Are the dog days of summer bringing you down? Warm weather brings mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases like Chikungunya. PADF is training young people in the Caribbean to be more prepared for potential environmental hazards and natural disasters. Read on to learn more about Chikungunya and for instructions on a simple way to reduce your risk. 

The virus was first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952 and has now been identified in nearly 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and, most recently, the Americas. The mosquito bite transmits a virus that causes fever and joint pain. To reduce your exposure to Chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes, try building PADF's “do-it-yourself” mosquito trap

This DIY project is excerpted from our custom curriculum on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, created for PADF's Resilient Livelihoods Program in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Knowledge is power, and when you are aware of risks, you are better able to protect yourself and respond if disaster strikes. Give the project a try and let us know how it goes!