The Caribbean is one of the most disaster-prone regions of the world. Tropical storms, earthquakes and volcanoes constantly threaten its communities, especially those that lack the resources to prepare and recover. Year after year, natural disasters threaten to erase residents’ hard-earned progress.
The islands are also home to large populations of young people who lack jobs and opportunities. Many youths become involved in the crime and violence that plague their neighborhoods. Each time a natural disaster strikes, communities become more vulnerable, and opportunities further diminish for young people.
But what if the energy and creativity of at-risk youth could be channeled toward preparing their communities for disasters? In some of the toughest neighborhoods of Kingston, Jamaica, the St.Patrick’s Rangers, with support from Catholic Relief Services and the U.S.Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, are discovering their potential and proving that young people can play a key role in reducing disaster risk.
St. Patrick's Rangers has over 150 volunteers between 16 and 25 years old who are formed into nine (9) Youth Emergency Action Committees (YEACs). The young women and men are trained in disaster risk reduction, including hurricane and earthquake awareness and preparedness. Areas of training include first aid, shelter management, map reading, search and rescue, fire wardens, carpentry and electrical repairs, as well as communication, teamwork and community development.
The YEACs develop strategies for raising community awareness about how to prepare for and prevent disasters. They write and perform skits, songs and dances, and they hold contests. This "edutainment" approach—education plus entertainment—makes it fun to teach and learn.
St. Patrick's Rangers is working with youths to show that simple interventions can greatly increase the resiliency of households and communities. Ask the Rangers about hurricane-resilient construction and they'll tell you about facial capping, fillets and an array of other techniques that they have learned—valuable knowledge and experiences that could set them on a path to jobs and serving in their communities.