I am a German intern here at the Center for Disaster Preparedness and it was an early rainy Monday morning. I was with Ian, a community organizer from CDP working in the field here in Labnig. Ian didn’t choose the meeting time to be this early and obviously neither did I. It was the local youth Organization 'WEVOY'. To be honest, when I saw the huge number of young people marching through the cold morning rain at that time on a holiday, I was more than just impressed. In my home country that would never happen. At this point, without knowing WEVOY in detail, I already knew that those young people must be very motivated. With around 60 participants, more than officially announced, we started the mission of the day: a clean-up drive.
Unimpressed by time and weather conditions, the youth divided themselves quickly into three groups. Each group with 20 members. Then the village area was split up into areas of responsibility. Garbage bags were distributed and the collection of waste began.
In a very fast pace, the bags filled. Plastic, bottles and other non-biodegradable materials were collected and brought to a collection place. Ponds and small lakes were cleaned with nothing else but bare hands. At the beach, the boys dig a channel to let out the water of a blocked pond. Within an hour, the village was free of unsightly plastic wastes and garbage. I, still sleepy and not able to realize quickly what was happening, wanted to find out more about this organization, which calls itself WEVOY and is supported by CDP and UNICEF. But I had to wait for my turn for the interview. Moments later, I finally had the chance to ask some questions.
CDP is carrying out the so called DRREAM BIG Project (Disaster Risk Reduction Through Education and Managing Barangay Integrated Goals Towards Disaster Resilient Communities and Schools) in the municipality of Paracale, Camarines Norte. The program aims at reducing the municipalities vulnerability to disasters and to increase the resident’s capacities. The project is managed by CDPs Project and Partnership Program. CDP is providing trainings and workshops to local government units (LGU´s), villagers, service providers, local youth groups, schools, and others as a multi-sectoral approach.
Labnig's geographical location puts the municipality at risk of being affected by various hazards, such as meteorological disasters (storm surges), hydrological disasters (floods), geophysical disasters (earthquakes and tsunamis) and land-slides. Most the hazards in the municipality of Paracale are a combination of man-made and natural. The nearby river has the potential to flood parts of the village while the coastal region makes it prone to storm surges and tsunamis. Mining and logging activities in the recent past has further degraded the environment and increased the risks.
This is the second phase of the project. The project is addressing multi sectoral concerns in terms of DRRM such as health, education, sanitation & hygiene and child protection, combining bottom-up and top-down approaches. Labnig is a small coastal Barangay with a population of around 700 people, only accessible by boat or dirt road.
WEVOY (We Empower the Voice Of the Youth) is a local youth organization which actively engages in disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation. It counts 38 members and was formally registered only a few months ago in 2017. But even before being officially registered, the organization already existed for quite some time and is today very well-structured and organized. As the name WEVOY implies, the organization's main focus is to empower the local youth to actively participate in disaster preparedness, including being involved in the barangay's and municipality's council decisions, making progresses and successes on disaster prevention.
In a very creative process, slogans were developed and put on posters encouraging people to reduce waste.
WEVOY´s President, Miss Felyn Joi B. Lamadrid, a founding member since 2015, 20 years old, and the Vice President, Ms. Jolina S. Garamay, 17, were willing to provide me with some insights into the organization stating that WEVOY was able to carry out various activities through the DRREAM BIG II project. Amongst them include waste reduction activities, participation in the youth convergence, trainings on the Disaster Risk Management Cycle (Preparedness, Mitigation, Response and Recovery), and in the WASH project.
Their participation in the youth convergence was a meaningful experience for the organization, as there were many youth and adolescents present. Remarkable to keep in mind is the fact, that none of the members is older than 20 years old. Another challenging experience for Felyn and Jolina was the participation in a training for village officials. “When I went to this training in Camarines Sur, I was surrounded by a lot of people much older than I am, having a lot of knowledge. But this was a good opportunity for us to learn from experienced village leaders,” says Felyn. Jolina adds on that by stating that, “the participation in the training was an honor, as I got the chance to collaborate with principles and professionals of the DRRM sector. Although I am still young, I had the chance to share my knowledge with the participants and I am grateful for this experience.”
The bottom-up approach of the organization is not only helping the community to become more resilient and to build its capacities, it also has an impact on the lives of the children and adolescents. By participating in DRREAM BIG II, “we established relationships with the barangay officials and the relations between the youth improved too. We now have more unity and we feel more important than before as the voice of the youth has gained more focus and attention. Some years ago, there was no such organization in our Barangay. But having one brings the youth together and leads to active participation. WEVOY and CDP have changed our lives, we are now more aware of our environment and apply everything we learn. We also lobby for the protection of our rights. We are here not just to have fun, but more importantly to unite and empower the youth by learning and increasing our knowledge on DRRM.”
And the local youth learns further a lot of valuable soft skills, including how to be responsible leaders and how to establish relations and networks. Asking the two young ladies about their satisfaction with CDP´s work, the result is clear, “We are more than happy with the outcomes of this collaboration and we hope that there are more projects coming in the future.”
Asked about the local barangay officials if they are skeptical about the impact that a bunch of children and adolescents can have, they're answer was definite, "No, they are not! They support the young volunteers with knowledge and once in a while with funding. The project has clearly helped us to establish a better relationship between the officials and the youth."