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Starting them young in DRRM

Marc Arvin Gestiada was on time on an early Sunday morning in the barangay hall of Dalnac, Paracale, Camarines Norte. Marc is 18 years old, and the president of the local youth organization, Thunders.

Aldrean Garchitorena, on the other hand, is the group's vice-president. Their members have gathered to attend a training on basic life support, provided by the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP), in collaboration with the local municipality and UNICEF. Marc and Aldrean facilitate the interactions of their members and ensure that the kids increase their knowledge on disaster preparedness -- learning and while having fun at the same time.

The basic life support training equips the young people with precious knowledge on life saving action such as resuscitation procedures or how to apply recovery positions, strengthening the communities’ ability to respond to disasters. In the sector we would speak of “reducing vulnerability” or “building capacities”; but for the young people attending the training, it’s the most basic thing in life. The objective today is to learn basic life support. This training today is not just a one day cooperation between the different stakeholders. It is part of the two-year DRREAM BIG II project focusing on child-inclusive disaster risk reduction and management.

Marc and Aldrean are happy with the results of this collaboration. “We are more than satisfied and we hope there are more activities upcoming, the previous ones were very successful. We learned to establish better relationships with the LGU officials and to advocate for our interests,” says Marc. “We managed to overcome shyness and are now able to communicate with our mayor, to encourage him to pay more attention to the voice of the youth," Aldrean added. When it comes to future plans, Thunders has a lot of activities coming up, amongst others the planting of trees for climate change mitigation. The establishment of the youth organization and the trainings of CDP have not only raised awareness for disasters and made the community more resilient, it also had an impact on the young people lives directly. “We learned to know each other better, to create unity and to respect everyone for who they are. We are being accepted and we accept the others too,” states Marc. Aldrean adds on that, “instead of fighting each other, we collaborate and that helps us being strong in our personal lives.” Knowledge from the trainings and activities is applied at the young people’s homes. They are sensitized for the threat of hazards and how to respond by applying for example basic life support. The knowledge further empowers the youth. The members are also recognized and warmly received by the Barangay officials. But what happens when the project ends? Can the young people keep up their great work? Aldrean and Marc are confident. “We have learned to help others. Everything we learn, we share with others, with our new members.” Aldrean has a positive view of the future of Thunders. “We will continue doing projects on our own in the future and train today’s youth to prepare them to become the successor of today’s officials when the time has come. As long as we can help, we are happy,” he states before he continues with the basic life support training.

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