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YMCA creates disaster preparedness plan

By World Council of YMCAs

(23 July 2010, Hong Kong) YMCAs have scaled up a disaster

preparedness plan to facilitate and beef up emergency relief work

globally, with the support of Y Care International.

“The disaster preparedness programme is being established as a

result of working with YMCAs who have responded to disasters,” said

Claire O'Meara, Emergency Programme Coordinator of Y Care

International who chaired a workshop organised at the 17th World

Council of YMCAs, "When Disaster Strikes! The role of YMCAs in

responding to disasters and conflict".
While YMCAs focus on youth empowerment and development, because of

their connection to and rootedness in the community, they are in a

unique position to respond effectively to disasters or emergencies.

“Because of our substantial local membership base, we are able to

mobilise local volunteers like we did in Kenya's post-election

violence in 2007/8. We worked at ground level, assisting people in

the camps, integrating children into our schools, coordinating food

and medical relief and providing sports and recreation,” said Jared

Musima, National General Secretary of the YMCA Kenya. After the

crisis was under control, YMCA Kenya then rolled out a peace

ambassador programme and is, in fact, still working with those

affected by the violence.
“At the same time, we are now involved in the 'One Million

Campaign' in the run-up to the 2012 elections where we are

preparing our youth for the elections. We are using our Subject to

Citizen model for training and sensitisation, and plans involve youth

as peace ambassadors and election observers. We want to ensure that

the youth play a positive role in the elections this time and are not

part of the violence, either as perpetrators or violence.”

O'Meara said the rationale behind a preparedness programme came

about after learning from past experiences. Y Care International has

channeled money to Senegal to respond to floods, Haiti to respond to

the earthquake, and Sri Lanka to respond to the internally displaced

persons crisis. According to O'Meara, disaster preparedness

planning is a “very critical component of emergency response”

which ensures the relief process is much smoother, quicker and easier

to target the specific needs of those requiring assistance.

“Y Care International works with YMCAs to draft disaster

preparedness plans. We are working with YMCAs in Sri Lanka,

Madagascar and Liberia to produce a guide for the preparedness

mechanism,” she added.
“Disaster preparation involves discussions with volunteers, young

people we work with and the community. It is a participative

consultation process. It is vital that those who benefit understand

in their heads and are committed to in their hearts, because they

were engaged with the consultation process, and they believe it is

the right decision,” Ms O'Meara said.
Workshop participants highlighted that the key to effective disaster

relief is the interplay between having local needs and voices

represented and understood, and the active and quick response from

the international community to cater to those specific needs. “Any

relief effort must respect mutuality and impartiality,” emphasised

O'Meara.
Almost 1 200 YMCA delegates from 85 countries are gathering in Hong

Kong this week to discuss and map out the future of YMCA for the next

four years, especially with respect to its role in global issues

ranging from poverty and hunger, youth advocacy, gender equality to

climate change and environmental protection.