Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Young Indonesians (creatively) prepare for disaster

By Nick Baker, Communication and Knowledge Management Officer

Junior Secondary School students at an Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation Workshop. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

A classroom in East Jakarta is buzzing with activity. Around 20 adolescents are drawing all sorts of words, shapes and patterns on large white sheets of paper. It’s a lively atmosphere but the topic couldn’t be more serious: the next devastating flood.

Jakarta is well-known for its severe seasonal flooding. And the areas in the eastern part of the city often bear the brunt each wet season. Most adolescents at this workshop have a collection of painful stories about the floods. Some have even faced near-death experiences.

“I was in a very serious flood back in 2007,” explains 14-year-old participant Vicka, “It was late at night, around 2am, when the flood happened. In no time the water was up to the ceiling. It was dark and my whole family was very afraid.”

“My dad calmed us down and took us onto the roof where he called for help. Eventually a lifeboat came. We all had to jump onto in from the roof. I was scared but luckily we were all ok. The craziest part was that my mum was very pregnant at the time. She ended up giving birth to my sister the next day."

The Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation is being piloted in Indonesia and South Sudan. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

Last year, UNICEF decided to pilot its new Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation in the flood-prone Jakarta neighborhoods of Kampung Melayu and Rawajati. The Kit, developed at UNICEF Headquarters in New York, is a package of tools and supplies that are intended to help adolescents prepare for conflict and crises in innovative ways.

UNICEF and local partners have since worked with eight groups of adolescents over a 12 month period. The process has involved regular workshops using the tools available in the Kit. Each adolescent has been encouraged to plan for floods using creative, inventive and even artistic methods.

“Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world,” says UNICEF HIV and Adolescent Officer Annisa Budiyani at one of the workshops, “So it’s very important to promote and enable adolescents’ participation in the development of local solutions to address issues before, during and after emergencies that affect their lives.”

“The Kit focuses on building their capacity to deal with the stress of an emergency and be self-empowered to address the risks associated with being an adolescent in emergency situations. Our goal is to give them the skills, methods and tools to create their own adolescent support system and their own solutions.”

Fauzan has big plans for the future. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

The adolescents who took part in the Kit workshops not only designed various flood plans and solutions for their neighborhoods, but also developed significantly as individuals.

“I learned to discuss, brainstorm and share knowledge with others,” says 13-year-old workshop participant Fauzan, “These are things I don’t really often do. We were encouraged to speak our minds. My creative abilities definitely improved.”

Fauzan worked on a number of projects to address flooding over the past year. One was an early warning mechanism that used the audio system of a local mosque. Another involved looking at how to help street vendors during floods.

When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Fauzan pauses. “I want to become a mayor of my neighborhood. Now I really want to serve my community,” he says.

UNICEF will spend the coming months assessing the Kit pilot programmes in Indonesia and South Sudan. The Kit will then be made available to UNICEF county offices around the world.