YMCA creates disaster preparedness plan
(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
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.