The Philippines is undeniably one of the most disaster-prone and vulnerable countries in the world. On the other hand, it is also considered to be one of the nations having the fastest economic development, which impacts to constant urbanization and sub-urbanization. For the past two decades to the present, Metro Manila has experienced this phenomenon, which resulted in rapid mushrooming of informal settler families within the cities in a huge megacity.
To address the growing phenomenon, the Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines, together with the Australian Agency for International Development had implemented a partnership project called Technical Assistance on Securing Safety of Informal Settler Families in Metro Manila: with a component on capacity building on Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. A two- year project, which started in 2013 and ended in June 2015.
This is a personal sharing of a community trainer who was involved in various community training workshops on community risk assessment; early warning system and contingency planning; and barangay disaster risk reduction and management planning.
For eight months, I have been involved in several CBDRRM trainings all over Metro Manila, with special focus in Pasay City. As a trainer working with vulnerable communities, I have come across diverse realizations on the impact of the project to community partners, and how the project has been able to change the mindset of the people implementing it.
Evidently, the CBDRRM training is a holistic, participatory and comprehensive approach in capacitating the community partners to address the various factors contributory to the degree of the communities’ vulnerability. It was a real learning experience for both parties, where trainers and the communities learn from the realizations and learnings of each other. The training did not just deliver the modules to be conveyed to these people, it also awakened the communities on the real problems besetting them. Through the tools and structured learning activities, they were able to recognize where their problems are coming from; why they are vulnerable to disasters; and how the interplay of socio-political environment affects the problem. Moreover, the training had served as a moot court, where different entities of the community, discuss issues that were once untouched and not delved in. These different dynamics provided an enabling environment to encourage the people of these communities to unite, collaborate and do something about the problems, especially on their vulnerabilities; to devise plans and strategies in order for them to become more resilient as a people, and as one community.
As a trainer, the project served as an eye-opener for me to various realizations on how pivotal our role in helping communities to be safer and more resilient. The project was actually the tipping point of my career in the development sector, where I finally realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. The direct numbers we ought to serve cannot quantify what we are doing in this line of work. It is just the tip of the iceberg, and the real impact of this toil is beyond measure.
Working in an NGO as a community trainer was once just a means to bring something on my table, but after immersing myself with these people in different communities, I realized that it is a way of life, my way of life. It is about seeing people change for the better, acknowledging the shift from multiple entities working separately to a unified body inspired by a definite goal geared towards improving community status through decreasing vulnerabilities and increasing capacities of the people. Furthermore, I also realized that as a trainer, it is not enough to simply transfer the knowledge through modular approach. You have to embody the advocacy for you to effectively deliver the key message, ensuring that the change in mindset is genuine, enough to fuel them up to create meaningful actions on the basis of their realizations.
In conclusion, the project “ISF”, had served as a training ground for me to hone my skills as a community facilitator, to find advocacy in my line of work, to appreciate the pivotal issue that we are currently dealing right now on DRR, CCA, and sustainable development and to appreciate the impact of participatory processes and pro-people approach in assisting the partner communities.
Furthermore, it gave me insights on the dynamics of how people work in different levels, from local to national level. It gave me a better understanding of the complexities that we are facing right now, which also prompts us to employ inter-disciplinary approach to get a good grasp of the intricacies evolving in this unique context. Lastly, and perhaps the most important takeaway for me in this project, is the recognition that what we are doing here is not just to teach and train people, because ultimately, we are saving lives and we are saving the future.
Martin Sylvan Dacles continues to work for the Center for Disaster Preparedness and is now part of the Advocacy, Partnership, and Networking Program as advocacy officer. 'A Trainer's Message' is just one of the case studies included in the terminal report for the project 'Securing the Safety of Informal Settler Families in Metro Manila'.
The two-year project was a resounding success. It has set as a model where other similar projects followed suit though with a different touch and focus. It has trailblazed in developing projects in the urban context on disaster risk reduction towards building urban community resilience. Read more about the impacts and results of the project by downloading the terminal report here.