" ‘Learning by doing’ is simply a way of saying learning from direct experience, rather than from reading books or listening to lectures.
It is characteristic of all CISV Programmes and you may hear this process referred to as ‘Experiential Learning’".
We also learned that ashes can be really disruptive and just ashes could be seen as a major natural disaster, something most of us had never even considered.
We learned that a natural disaster in one country can influence other countries in large parts of the world. For example, by way of flooding in factories. We also learned the difficulty in determining priorities in a humanitarian context due to the influence and interests of different groups (e.g. rich inhabitants)
We learned what it feels like to be in a formal forum to develop global solutions, where different groups/countries have different views on the problem and some groups might even believe there is no problem at all. We realized how hard it is to actually come to a global agreements and noticed some developing countries interests might be ignored by dominating industrialized countries with different interests and a different agenda.
To start the activity John asked us if we thought certain natural disasters had occurred in Great Britain (since the 1800s). None of us had expected all these different severe natural disasters to have happened in Great Britain. It showed us the unpredictability of the weather.
Due to climate change certain parts of Britain are more prone to flooding. In a role-play activity we learned the difficulty of decision making in developed countries and the influence of politics in the entire process. We also saw the importance of raising awareness within communities on risks and possible disasters.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Due to its location natural disasters are reasonably common in Japan. Yuriboh, Midori and Marina told us about the 2011 catastrophic earthquake and following tsunami. The consequences of this disaster were horrific and a large number of Japanese people died. CISV’ers in Japan acted by raising money and starting programs to help the affected families. They decided to use their CISV skills and set up a program to support the children of affected families.
In a simulation we learned how the Japanese prepare their communities for natural disasters (including the thoroughness). We were thought how to work together to save the people of our community by making decisions under pressure and finding out how to use the available resources to save others. Through educational games the Japanese prepare their communities in a very thorough way, which includes the stress and chaos felt in a disaster situation. In this activity we also learned the importance of good local maps known to all in the community.
Community based disaster preparedness
Irene showed us how the Philippines are working on community based disaster preparedness to reduce the impact of natural disaster on the local population. The local red cross organization recruits volunteers in the local communities to help these communities prepare for all types of natural disasters. Due to its location the Philippines, like other countries in the ring of fire, are prone to several types of natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons.
As part of the preparation local communities create accurate maps of their communities, which include major risks and evacuation routes. Both low and high tech maps can be created, as long as they are created in unison with the local community.
In small groups we talked about the 1st steps to be taking in developing a response to a natural disaster based on the information available.
Hurricanes and relief efforts
The USA is prone to all kinds of natural disasters, due to its size and location. Laura zoomed in on hurricane Sandy that hit the west coast in 2013. A lot of people were affected by the hurricane. The American Red Cross coordinated all relief efforts. In the aftermath of the hurricane people criticized the relief efforts by the Red Cross due to lack of coordination. Coordination and communication are not only extremely difficult, but also extremely important. During the activity we created tools to increase coordination and communication in emergency situations. All groups were really creative in developing devices using old ideas with a twist or coming up with something entirely new e.g. “Save me”. A tool for vulnerable people to be warned a disaster is coming and giving them the ability to ask for help. It comes with a touchscreen and bracelet.
We learned that developed countries can also be vulnerable to natural disaster. In preparing for natural disaster countries should look abroad for best practices.
Flooding and lowlands
The Netherlands is a low country, partly situated below sea-level. Due to this location large parts of the country are prone to flooding. Michiel, Jurjen, Ella and Elsbeth showed us how the country is protected from flooding by dykes, dams and dunes and how they are personally affected. Like the dyke that protects Jurjen’s house from flooding by the river he lives next to. We learned the country is protected from flooding by a lot of technology, but also that the local people mostly don’t know what to do in case of an emergency. The people have a high reliance on technology, but have a need for basic measures.
In recent years the country has been shifting its focus from working against the environment by gaining land from the sea, to working with the environment by giving space to rivers in case of flooding. Long-term infrastructure planning and disaster management are integrated into all levels of government.
During a simulation we experienced the difficulty of coming to an agreement on mandatory evacuating of (part of) the population.
Mongolia is a landlocked country that has an extreme cold winter and is prone to drought. Due to its size vs population ratio (4.3 per square mile) a lot of natural disasters are not reported, because people and animals are not affected. This doesn’t mean we should forget about these disasters though. Doljo explained that during the Zud large numbers of livestock die, primarily due to starvation because their natural grazing grounds are affected by inconsistent rainfall in summer. This may even lead to desertification. There are two kinds of Zud, white and black Zud. White Zud is an extremely snowy winter in which livestock is unable to find food through the snow cover and Black Zud, an extremely cold and heavy wind storm without snow.
During an role play and discussion we learned that Mongolians are very solidary and will always stand up to help their neighbors.
Influence of Climate Change on indigenous people
Sweden is a developed country with relative little natural disasters. Due to climate change indigenous people (the Sami) living in the northern part of Sweden are highly effected though. The Sami rely on breeding and herding Reindeer for their livelihood and the up keeping of their traditions. Eva and Linda showed us how changes in temperature and snowfall can have a large impact on the natural resources available to the Sami.
In a negotiation between various groups (foresters, the Sami and the government) we learned the difficulty finding middle ground in dealing with cultural heritage on one hand and economic growth on the other.
Flooding due to human causes
Ahmad explained how Egypt is facing natural disasters that are mostly created by humankind. Intense rains turned into a flooding problem, because the water had nowhere to go due to a blocked sewage system. To help us better understand the panic and chaos during a disaster in a developing country, we tried to build shelters with limited materials and under high time pressure. We learned this is extremely difficult and that it’s very important to respect local culture and be sensitive towards it.
In the chaos we forgot to identify the capabilities of the people we were working with. This means it took us half an hour to find out the skills of every one in our team. Our shelter would have been build more efficient and probably of better quality had we communicated better.
Relief efforts for disasters abroad
Due to its location the sea is slowly eating away the Danish western shores. By pumping sand from the ocean floor onto the beaches, the Danish protect their shores and communities. Because Denmark is not prone to a lot of natural disasters Marc and Tone showed us how the Danish respond to natural disasters in different parts of the world. As a group we created a music video on natural disasters for fundraising and to show our solidarity.
We learned you can still find ways to help despite the distance to a natural disaster.
Communication and the lack of information
Valentina showed us the difficulty of working together and making decisions without having complete and reliable information. By making us find papers scattered around the campsite and translating coded messages for clues we had to create something. Because the provided information was neither complete nor reliable it was unclear what we actually needed to create. This activity showed us the creativity and problem solving ability of people and the resilience of stricken communities even if government support is not available.
Large parts of Australia are extremely dry and tend to get very hot and windy during summer months. This makes the country very prone to bush fires. Heath explained the danger of the bush fires and showed us how communities try and reduce the risk of the fires. We learned that the way risk of fire is reduced is highly dependent on the community and the opinions people involved. Education on the risks in a particular community are vital for survival.
We also learned about the role of chance, which makes it impossible to prepare for everything. Heath gave us an example of a community that got destroyed by a bush fire, due to a sudden change in the winds that occurred in the middle of the night. People went to bed thinking the fire was moving away from the town, only to find out there was no way out anymore when they woke up.