Stories of Change

Volunteers participating in First Aid and Search and Rescue training.

Equipping communities to prepare for the worst in Myanmar

The massive Ayeywarwady River in southwest Myanmar is the defining aspect of life here. The river functions as a highway for people traveling among small riverside villages, goods traveling to market and information and news. Countless families rely on the river for their livelihoods, including fishing.

Every year, though, the monsoon rains come and the river floods. Suddenly, the river is a source of destruction rather than prosperity. And no one is helping communities here prepare for this annual disaster – except CWS.

After a successful pilot of Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction programs in Maubin and another township, 15 communities near Maubin are organizing and preparing. Each village is led by two community-chosen volunteers, who join the CWS Myanmar team for an intensive Training-of-Trainers program. They learn the basics of modern-day disaster risk reduction, like making maps of each village with hazards and safe spaces and marking evacuation routes. They also receive training on First Aid, early warning signs of emergencies and search and rescue protocols.

Perhaps most importantly, and why it’s called a Training-of-Trainers workshop, is that these volunteers learn how to lead and organize their communities. They learn about group management and activity facilitation, and they form Disaster Risk Management Committees in their village. Each committee has smaller teams focused on First Aid, Early Warning or Search and Rescue. They identify men and women who are interested in learning more about and facing the challenges that affect their community.

This fall, volunteers joined local firefighters, Myanmar Red Cross Society staff and Department of Disaster Management staff for a series of training activities. Once their finished their training, they started to share what they learned with their neighbors and got started with disaster response simulations and working on maps.