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Children as agents of change in vulnerable communities

The Supporting the Role of Schools in Disaster Risk Reduction (SRSD) project is working with students through Junior Red Cross Circles (JRCs) to enhance knowledge, skills and attitudes on disaster risk reduction in and around the schools. The JRCs, with support of the School Management Committees (SMCs) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), prepare School Safety Plans and implement mitigation measures in and around their schools to reduce the risk of disasters and enhance disaster-related education within the schools.

In this context, JRCs have been conducting various sensitization activities in their own communities. The JRCs pass on the knowledge gained from different trainings led by Mercy Corps and their partner the Nepal Red Cross Society of Kailali to their peers and communities in order to help change their risky behavior around disaster preparation, management and reaction. JRCs and students from Shree Jana Kalyan Higher Secondary School in Jugeda are engaging at the household level, suggesting to their families and other community members to keep matchboxes and lighters in safe places where small children can’t reach them. They also recommend that each household keep at least 1 bucket of water in their kitchen in order to be able to respond quickly to any kitchen fires. More than 100 households have practiced this activity.

On sharing the experience, Ms. Mayawati Chaudhary said, “Students learn in their schools and share with their parents, and that contributes to reducing the risk and impact of fires in the home.” Similarly, Mr. Puna Ram Chaudary, a local resident of the same community, came to know that if one bucket of water and some quantities of sand are kept in the kitchen, one can very quickly and effectively put out a fire. This activity has been further scaled up to other areas and has led to a change in the behavior of over 100 households.

Children organizing awareness rally on disasters

Similarly, JRCs demonstrated the use of life jackets in theirflood-prone communities in Bishalnagar of Dhangadhi Municipality. They also distributed 30 airtight plastic bags in which to keep their valuable documents and papers, like citizenship cards, senior citizen social security cards, land ownership certificates and birth registration certificates safely. After the demonstration, communities can now make life jackets on their own using locally available resources such as plastic bottles, saline bottles, ropes, sacks and other easily found materials to use in times of need. There are over 50 life jackets in the project communities so far. Over 20 houses have kept life jackets in front of their houses so they could use them in times of flooding. After the distribution of plastic bags, each household started keeping all their valuable documents inside them and storing them safely. There is no more fear that the floods will damage their documents.

Likewise, JRCs from 15 schools have prepared a list of the most important telephones numbers of disaster responders to be posted publicly. Some households also keep these numbers in their homes for times of need. JRCs also continue to conduct a series of street dramas in various flood-prone communities of Udasipur, Dharmapur, Indradoya, Fulbari and others in order to make people more aware of how they can better prepare themselves before disaster strikes. A local farmer, Mr. Ram Bahadur Chaudhari from Dharmapur, shared that he learnt about important safety techniques simply by observing the street drama put on in his own community by the JRCs.

In this way, JRCs have been a key actor in leading the change in behavior of their own communities to reduce, respond to and prepare for floods in Kailali. They have proved that they are not just vulnerable victims, but are instead change agents for themselves, their families and their communities.

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