Friday, August 16, 2013

In July my heart was caught by the Gambia. Well not like the abstract concept of the Gambia but what must be the heart and soul that endures past losing hope. By children and people who believe in a better future for themselves and others and do something about it... daily.

For ten days I was privileged to be there conducting a training workshop on DRR. Following are a few of my experiences and impressions. The life of the place, including the culture, people and hospitality; as well as the complex and pervasive layering of vulnerabilities and impacts of climate change are indelibly stamped in my mind...

One of the most moving stories is of a friend of mine who used to be a sponsored child with ChildFund. From a very poor village, he now is married and works as a program manager helping other Gambian youth and their families overcome gut-wrenching poverty... and since our workshop he’s inspired to return to his home village and share what he learned on risk and resilience. He is such a passionate guy about giving back, "Because they believed in me," he says of his sponsors, “I want to give back to my community by building their capacities to reduce risks”... I received the photo above earlier this week, along with a request to review his workshop plan.

So his idea is to train up 50 young people, creating awareness and hazards pertaining to their locality, spreading the culture of disaster preparedness, and imparting skills and knowledge on DRR so that the youths and their families and communities can be more resilient to disasters, and better able to manage them when they do occur. Incidentally, he’s raising funds locally to pay for the training – most of it coming from his own pocket. Amazing? Look at the picture and see future leaders!

It inspires me to think of the cascading impact and influence of these 50 young people in their various walks of life, as well as the impact that the workshop will likely have on their own individual lives and futures. It is exciting to see when the powerful idea of resilience takes off and forms a life of its own. I believe that the seeds that we planted together in the Gambia at the DRR workshop that are now germinating will grow towards the betterment of life in West Africa.

My co-trainer in the pink shirt on the right is from Liberia. During the war he hid for three months inside of a burnt structure of a house with no roof - nothing but a shell. He crawled around at night hoping and praying not to be discovered. The colleague to my left is from Sierra Leone. When the rebels descended on her village to take retribution for a crime that a neighbor had committed, they chose her house. Able to convince them that the man they sought was from a neighboring village and not hers, she and her family escaped harm. The lovely young lady kneeling in front started by helping us in administration and logistics, but was so gifted, and similarly captivated by the topic that she ended up participating, making a presentation on vulnerabilities in the community on behalf of the Gambia country office.

More to follow soon...




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