International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action-EDUCATION


Colombian children and youth learn how to prevent disasters by playing Riskland

With the support material provided by the ISDR, a research group at the University of Cauca, Colombia, taught children and college students how to prevent disasters by playing Riskland. The Research Group on Environmental Risk (GIRA) was established in 2002 by initiative of a group of students of the program entitled “Geography of Regional and Environmental Development”, at the University of Cauca.

Due to the increasingly need to consolidate academic and research programs for risk management, the ISDR to request the education materials GIRA contacted, in order to support the establishment of a Network of Schools for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness (REDESPAD). This project has been implemented during the last six months, and is aimed at strengthening education for risk reduction and disaster response among children. The Julumito school was chosen as the pilot education center for this project, as it is located in the fringe area of the Municipality of Popayán, an earthquake-prone city.

The documents provided to the GIRA group served as methodological support material for risk management, and were used to raise awareness among the educational community, and children in particular, of issues that are new to them -such as disaster prevention- through a number of innovative activities that are not usually found within the Colombian educational context.

There was the need, then, to apply new methodologies that go beyond what is written in a book. This is why we implemented tools by which children may work using their many learning styles to achieve a more perceptive result of their environment.

The project is composed of ten phases, of which seven have been finalized. During the first, stage the booklet “Learning to Prevent Disasters” was used to familiarize children with new concepts such as threat, vulnerability and risk. As part of this introduction, recreational activities that included these concepts were carried out to capture the children’s attention.

Once these concepts were clear, the second phase began by identifying which threats and hazards put their community at risk. At this point, children were able to identify, for example, hazards caused by factors related to the public order, seismic activity, and floods, which are common in this area and are a consequence of deforestation in the stream that runs near their school.

During the third phase, it was identified how vulnerable they are to these phenomena, and participants expressed their inability to cope with them due to the lack of knowledge about these issues, as well as the lack of visibility of public bodies such as police officers, fire fighters and civil defense officials.

During the fourth stage, after exchanging opinions, students concluded that if vulnerability is added to hazards, this will result in risk. They believe that it is important to be organized as an educational institution so that risk does not become a disaster.

After learning more about their environment, the fifth stage began with games such as Riskland and others included in the booklet. Students showed their learning aptitude by answering a number of questions related to these issues. This phase was one of the most fun and was a direct result of the previous stages. The fifth stage encouraged them to think that human and social development may be defined as a process for change based upon education, which includes prevention and care.

The sixth and seventh stages included the formulation of a school prevention and mitigation plan. Students were the major actors that lead risk management, through which they learned and shared experiences. Also, social maps were used as a tool for children to identify, from their own homes, which places are dangerous. These two stages are currently being developed.

As part of the eight and ninth phases, a school emergency brigade is expected to be established. The project is seeking help from the Municipality to sponsor training for children in this field.

To complete the tenth stage, it has been planned to prepare educational material related to the school prevention plan and, hopefully, given the support of parents and the community at large, a contingency plan for Julumito as well.

In conclusion, the material was well accepted by students who expressed that this is the best way to learn about their community and its problems, which had not been taken into account before. Besides raising awareness, this project has made students want to make a change to improve their own environmental safety.

For further information, please contact:
Claudia Lucia Castillo.
University of Cauca
School of Human and Social Sciences
Department of Geography
Program of Geography for Regional and Environmental Development