25/03/2014 by Annalisa Bergantini – Anpas

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Driving almost an hour crossing hills and a forest so green, that I’ve never seen anything like that.

And a landscape that looks like those ones that we only saw in documentaries about dinosaurs.

Yesterday we met the local volunteers of the St. Andrew community, about one hour by car from the capital, St. George.

We met around 25 volunteers, members of a recently established subcommittee for disaster response, coordinated by Francis, the so called district coordinator. The district coordinator, in Grenada disaster response system, is the person responsible for the coordination of community groups involved in providing the first response in case of a disaster. He is mainly in charge of organizing trainings and, very important, keeping them motivated.

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Meeting the volunteers, we tried to understand what are their main needs, and after an initial but normal suspicion, the ice has been broken and many interesting things came out.

A young girl, 30 years old, told us that one of the main needs is to raise the very basic awareness of the natural hazards that this community faces: tsunamis, earthquakes, the marine volcano, hurricanes, flash floods, landslides.

When he’s father was 8, a very strong hurricane hit their district and destroyed everything. Many years later, in 2004, hurricane Ivan hit again the island. «I didn’t even know what a hurricane is, we lack the basic knowledge about the risks that we have to face» told us the girl.

«Kids at school are now receiving these informations, but the rest of the population, not going to school anymore, is not informed. We need an awareness campaign to spread these very simple informations!».

So I thought about the importance of the historical memory of disasters, especially at the local level. I learned during the training course of the Italian “I don’t take risks” awareness campaign, that in each territory or small community, you can find the signals of the disasters occurred in the past, sometimes happened hundreds of years ago: epigraphs, written texts, even paintings telling us the that community has already faced a disaster.

In the Emilia Romagna hit by the earthquake, as in Grenada hit by hurricanes, what if people would have been able to read those signals from their past?

What if that father would have had the opportunity to exchange with his daughter, in a structured and guided way, the experience that he already faced during that hurricane? And the chance to inform about how the community, at that time, coped with the same disaster that hit the district many years later?

The meeting with this community and these volunteers has been extremely interesting and full of inputs.

Team Bravo, Team Charlie: you’ll have much work to do!