Students Without Borders is a WUSC and CECI program that enables Canadian university and college students to participate in exciting, volunteer learning opportunities in South America, Africa, and Asia.

The importance of being prepared

November 1, 2013

After the hectic rush of getting to Vietnam, including a few weeks in Hanoi, I have finally settled in to Hue city with SRD’s Hue Team. Hue is a beautiful and peaceful city. It was once the capital of Vietnam for over 100 years, and is filled with beautiful UNESCO heritage sites like the old citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda, and a variety of Emperor’s tombs, each extravagantly beautiful and in a different style. I’ve also met inspiring people, like Mr. Khu of Quang Tri province.

Although our office in Hue is very small, SRD is operating two big programs. With just two full time staff, an intern and myself, a lot gets done. However, I’d like to focus on one important aspect in this blog post, which is: the importance of being prepared. Both projects have come together on this important point by also focusing on another: the importance of inclusiveness and participatory practices.

Hue and the project areas which are in the areas surrounding Hue are in the central part of Vietnam, which has a long rainy season. As a result, flooding often occurs, and the region is also prone to storms such as typhoons. As a result of this weather, it is very important to be prepared. In my time in Hue, there has already been 2 typhoons. Fortunately, I have been safe during these typhoons. But many people in coastal areas or with buildings that are not strong enough have to deal with strong winds, heavy rainfall, potential flooding, and even the growing danger of landslides. Roofs can blow off, trees can fall – the situation is difficult.

Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction projects, like the one we have in Hue province, are a great way to help with preparedness. However, these projects sometimes miss the needs of vulnerable groups, like children, seniors and people with disabilities. These people have unique needs and capacities to support their communities in times of need. Our second project is one for people with disabilities.

In my first month in Vietnam, I had the opportunity to attend a regional competition in support of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13, 2013. This event brought together many NGOs and people with disabilities to compete in disaster risk reduction, including Mr. Khu and other inspiring people. Mr. Khu is resilient and kind. Despite having mobility issues, he made the five hour journey from his home in Quang Tri to visit Quang Nam. He won the main prize for communication in the competition, after starring in a performance about a disabled man who uses DRR principles in a typhoon.

I’m grateful to be working with an organization that values local ownership and takes a participatory approach to development. I never cease to be surprised by the strength of spirit, even in the face of gale force winds. But a little preparedness can go a long way to helping ensure everyone makes it through OK.