With ‘extremely active’ hurricane season predicted, World Vision mobilizes thousands of young first responders

Tuesday, 4 June 2013 01:57 GMT

World Vision trained youth responders distribute food kits and mattresses to flood survivors in Panama. COURTESY OF AARON ECHAZABAL.

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  • Generation of tech-savvy youth trained to assist in immediate aftermath, reporting of disasters
  • Thousands of supplies pre-positioned in Latin America


Mexico City, MEXICO (June 3, 2013) – World Vision is responding to forecaster's predictions of an "extremely active" hurricane season this year, training more than 10,000 volunteers between 14 and 24 years old in Latin America to assist first responders if a natural disaster strikes their communities.

Through special workshops and simulations, the training gives young people skills to mobilize as volunteers with first responders – handing out supplies, providing basic first aid or reporting to authorities where help is needed. Done in collaboration with the local government, military, police and firefighters, it’s part of a wider model World Vision and other NGOs use called ‘learning by doing’ that allows staff and volunteers to simulate a disaster situation and learn how to respond before the emergency happens.

“This is a plugged-in generation. Social media and technology means they’re more aware of the world around them and those in need. They don’t want to be the listeners anymore. They want to participate. This really brings them some purpose,” said Fabiano Franz, World Vision’s director of emergency response in Latin America. “We provided them the space to grow and to participate.” 

In Panama, that training has already proved essential for one community. Severe flooding in Colon County killed five people and affected more than 6,500 residents in November, just a few months after the youth received their first training. In the aftermath, they were able to help distribute food kits and mattresses, provide basic first aid and counseling to residents, and facilitate children’s activities.

Many of the teens and young adults have also been trained to capture video and pictures of the aftermath, sharing their story and helping them to feel empowered even the worst situations. So far, teens have been trained in Panama, Ecuador and Bolivia, with more countries to be included soon.

World Vision's local emergency response teams have pre-positioned supplies in areas likely to be impacted by hurricanes each year to ensure emergency teams can begin responding immediately. In addition to pre-positioned items in 10 out of the 14 Latin American countries where the organization works, there are regional supplies housed in Panama, a country that is rarely hit by hurricanes but is centrally located in Latin America. Examples of the materials include blankets, tarps, mosquito nets, water purification tablets and hygiene kits.

“Many of the countries in the path of hurricanes are more vulnerable than ever as populations increase and more people settle along the coast. It’s these coastal areas that are the first and hardest hit by the strong winds, storm surges and rain a hurricane can bring,” said World Vision’s operations director in emergencies, Jeff Wright. “That’s why it’s essential that we work with communities to ensure they are prepared, while also preparing our response plan even before hurricane season begins.”

“We know in countries including Haiti, people are still recovering and vulnerable from past natural disasters,” Franz said. “So we will be watching the radar very closely, prepared to react at the first sign of a storm, by pre-positioning supplies and World Vision staff, ready to respond in those critical first moments after a hurricane.”


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About World Vision

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/press or follow us on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews.