Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Young People Supporting Relief and Recovery Efforts

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, young people throughout the world are asking what they can do to help Haitians recover. Many responses to young people suggest that they can organize fundraising events to funnel needed funds to relief agencies operating in Haiti. In the immediate aftermath, securing financial support for relief agencies is crucial and a clear way young people can be contributing to the effort from afar.

If history is any guide, there are many more things young people can do in the long-term to support relief and recover efforts. Over the last decade, young people have responded to natural and human-made disasters throughout the world providing immediate and long-term relief to their fellow global citizens.

For example, in 2005 a devastating earthquake struck Northern Pakistan, killing approximately 75,000 people, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and crumbling infrastructure. Shortly after the earthquake, news reports indicated that relief agencies were struggling to reach those who most needed aid.

As reported in the World Bank’s World Development Report 2007, students in Pakistan quickly responded to this need.

"A group of 24 students from Lahore University of Management Sciences volunteered to be the first surveyors of devastated villages. Sleeping in tents, traveling by foot and in borrowed cars, these young men and women—between the ages of 18 and 22—surveyed 3,500 households, assessing needs and delivering supplies."

In addition to the immediate response, the students conducted a second study surveying 32,000 individuals in 200 households. The data the students collected has helped relief agencies coordinate their efforts and save lives.

Young people serving in AmeriCorps in the US were engaged in recovery and rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast. In August 2005, the US Gulf Coast was battered by Hurricane Katrina, resulting in flooding of approximately 80% of New Orleans, Louisiana, as the levee and flood systems failed in more than 50 locations throughout the city. Approximately 1,830 people were killed in five states and damage totaled nearly $81 billion. Residences, businesses, hospitals, schools, government buildings and numerous other structures were destroyed and more than one million people were displaced. The response to this devastating natural disaster required tremendous human and financial resources in the short- and long-term.

In the aftermath, national service programs in the US joined with local, state and national relief and recovery teams to provide assistance to Gulf Coast residents. In the initial aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government sent hundreds of administrative, emergency and security personnel from throughout the country to the region. AmeriCorps teams were quickly mobilized and sent to the region to assist in emergency operations. AmeriCorps members deployed to assist in donations and volunteer management efforts as well as mass care efforts. More than 1,650 volunteers assisted in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Since that time, many more AmeriCorps members have helped to rebuild Gulf Coast communities. AmeriCorps also saw enrollment rates increase as more Americans were compelled to help in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast through service. Gulf Coast residents relied on the invaluable services provided by AmeriCorps volunteers to help rebuild their community.

Finally, young people participated in community efforts in Sri Lanka and other Asian nations in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Deadly waves from the December 2004 tsunami struck in 11 countries surrounding the Indian Ocean with more than 150,000 estimated dead or missing and millions left homeless. Throughout the countries affected young people gathered in relief and recovery efforts.

USAID reported that young people in Sri Lanka were reaching across ethnic lines in coastal villages to help clean up debris, secure protective gear, clothing and medical equipment, and help with other relief. In northeastern Trincomalee, USAID worked with multi-ethnic teams of 400-1,000 young Sri Lankan volunteers to provide recovery support. “Each of our ongoing conflict resolution programs includes components encouraging people of different ethnicities to come together for some purpose, which has manifested itself in this spirit of volunteering,” said Wayne Brook, head of USAID’s Ampara Office of Transition Initiatives.

Young people in other countries volunteered throughout communities in relief and recovery efforts. Young people worldwide also travelled to affected countries to provide support. Students at Brigham Young University (BYU; US) joined with individuals from seven universities and 14 countries to carry out reconstruction efforts in Thailand.

During the 2005 Summer, students served in 10 teams in gathering debris from land and water, constructing and painting new furniture, reconstructing homes and schools, rebuilding boats, initiating income-generating programs and holding fundraisers to purchase supplies for homes, schools and medical facilities. Since 2005, new groups of volunteers have gathered in Thailand to continue long-term recovery support and the volunteers have expanded their efforts to other countries under the auspices of the Empowering Nations non-profit organization.

These are just a few examples of the many ways that young people have significantly contributed to relief and recovery efforts following natural disasters. Young people should also be engaged in efforts to rebuild Haiti in the years to come.

Do you have other stories of youth volunteers in relief situations? We would love to hear them! Please share your stories in the comments below.

1 comment:

Colleen said...

Here also is a good example from the University Kebangsaan Malaysia. The university adopted a city following devastating floods in 2006/2007 to help them recover and rebuild.


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