ODPEM gets disaster mitigation volunteers
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
Earlier this month, HelpAge International (HAI) turned over 300 disaster mitigation volunteers to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) at a presentation of volunteer corps and project close-out exercise at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
The community emergency response volunteers from 10 communities in St Catherine, Portland, St Thomas, and St Mary, were trained in HelpAge International's Disaster Risk Reduction Programme, funded by USAID and European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), in a project called 'Mainstream Vulnerable Populations in Disaster Risk Reduction in Jamaica'.
Under the theme, 'Community volunteerism - key to mainstreaming vulnerable populations in disaster risk reduction and resilience', the volunteers were trained in initial damage assessment; first aid; CPR; shelter and shelter management; live search and rescue; damage analysis and information systems; emergency radio telecommunications; the care of older people and those with disabilities.
Rhian Holder, HAI's country manager, in welcoming the volunteers spoke about the importance of making and keeping pledges. While directly addressing the volunteers, she said, "It's very encouraging to us that the teams we celebrate today are testament to the fact that the spirit of voluntary contribution still exists in Jamaica."
After the welcome, the first speaker was Achim Schaffert of ECHO, and head of the economic social development and trade section of the European Union.
He said the training was specifically designed to develop the capacity of the 10 communities with particular focus on vulnerable populations, to better manage and respond to the effects of natural disasters. He also remarked on the importance of volunterism.
"Community volunteerism is a very powerful tool which can be used to contribute towards this and other efforts in ensuring that older people and other persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups spend their lives in dignity and security," Schaffert said.
Alison Gordon, ODPEM regional coordinator, said the project resulted in an increase in the level of preparedness in 10 communities and an increase in the number of community response teams. "The strengthening of communities undoubtedly increased the communiuties preparedness and mitigation capacities, and enhanced ODPEM's role in coordinating emergencies," Gordon said.
Her colleague, deputy director Horace Glaze, was the keynote speaker, who said "ODPEM's mission is to lead the process of reducing the impacts of disasters in Jamaica through collaborative disaster management." While saying that it is difficult to survive without the spirit of volunteerism, he commended the volunteers for "taking that step to volunteer and continue to do so".
Glaze told the huge gathering that there are a number of policies that support volunteer integration in disaster management, chief among which is the National Development Plan Vision 2030, specifically Goal Number four of the NDP - Jamaica has a healthy natural environment, and Outcome 14 under Goal Number four, which speaks to hazard risk reduction and adaptation to climate change.
The first priority area under Goal Number four: Outcome 14, is to improve resilience from all types of hazards, while the second is to improve emergency response and capabilities. "Both of which through your participation in this project and building of capacity, knowledge sharing, etc, you have all contributed to those two very important elements of the National Development Plan Vision 2030," Glaze said.
After Glaze's address, the volunteers were officially presentated and turned over to ODPEM by Kerryan Francis and Julian McKoy Davis, project managers. Equipment and stockpiles, and community disaster plans were then distributed to the volunteers, while certificates were awarded to participants in the farmer field school, and retrofitting volunteers.