“Disaster management is driven by volunteers” – Lt Col. Kester Craig

─ VERT programme officially launched

─ volunteers urged to use opportunity to develop skills and capabilities

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, March 17, 2019

“Volunteers are members of society who are the ones who have the closest contact with the hazards and other issues communities face… they are also the ones best placed to identify the needs, the vulnerabilities and the coping capacity of at-risk communities.”

Director-General (ag) of the Civil Defence Commission, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig made this point as he officially launched the Voluntary Emergency Response Team (VERT) Programme over the weekend.

This initiative is in keeping with the CDC’s objective to build capacity for disaster risk management.

During the official opening ceremony on Sunday, at Camp Madewini, Timehri, East Bank Demerara, the acting Director-General stated that disaster risk management is multi-disciplinary which requires engagement from a wide range of skilled and professional individuals. He noted as a result of this, a significant extent of disaster management is led by volunteers.

He further emphasised that volunteers are “the most important members of a disaster response team since they provide critical emergency response services and play a major role in rebuilding livelihoods and strengthening community resilience.”

The programme, which is a collaborative effort with ExxonMobil, will be executed over one year and will see volunteers being trained in several areas. Some of these include Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis; Community Based Disaster Risk Management; First Aid Emergency Medical Response; Oil Spill Response, Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk Management among others.

ExxonMobil’s Public and Government Affairs Director, Deedra Moe said the company is pleased to be a part of the initiative. She disclosed that in addition to contributing to the programme financially, ExxonMobil will be utilising their expertise on oil spill response to equip volunteers with the necessary skillset and knowledge.

Speaking to some of the participants, it was evident that many of them were committed to the cause and look forward to the year-long theoretical and practical programme.

Brian Williams, an electrical engineer, said he looks forward to building his capacity and becoming a better volunteer,

All the way from Kato in Region 8, Mary Ignatius disclosed that after completing the programme, she plans to host workshops in her region to further build local capacity.

The volunteers were urged to use the opportunity to develop their skills, test their capabilities and to put differences to help each other.

On Friday, 39 participants travelled up to Camp Madewini where they were involved in a number of activities, including team building exercises. They were also given an overview of the mission of the CDC as well as the Community Based Disaster Risk Management’s basic concepts and key terminologies.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) will also be lending support to the project by providing technical training to the volunteers.

Anara Khan

Images: Jules Gibson