Caribbean practitioners seeking to change lives and landscapes through the Red Cross
Barbados was one of the countries benefitting from a recent Red Cross Communications Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, which brought together thirteen Red Cross communicators from around the Caribbean. The two-day event was an orientation into their new roles as humanitarian diplomats.
The workshop was hosted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), as part of the wider regional effort to build safer, better prepared communities. Strategic communications is a vital element of the disaster management programmes being implemented in the region.
According to Pilar Forcen, Communications Manager of the Americas zonal office of the IFRC based in Panama, “I encourage them to play their role in advocating in humanitarian challenges and to highlight the tremendous work of the Red Cross in minimising the effects on vulnerable groups.”
Belize Red Cross representative, Elizabeth Ayala was thrilled to participate in the workshop saying, “I really enjoyed meeting all my colleagues from across the Caribbean and now I know I can count on a solid network.”
One of the highlights of the workshop was a presentation on Community-based disaster management and the important role of communications in times of disaster. “The information and tools shared will assist me greatly in promoting the disaster preparedness activities of the St. Kitts and Nevis Red Cross Society”, said Selwyn Liburd.
Participants also got an opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills with a ‘learning by doing’ field trip to the rural community of Grande Rivière on the north-east coast of Trinidad. This community is currently implementing a reafforestation project with the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society, the Ministry of Agriculture-Forestry Division and the Grande Rivière Tourism Development Organisation. The project came about because the community depends on the forest for their livelihood and are therefore vulnerable to bush fires and land slides. Reafforestaion is a way to address this problem.
Community members shared their experiences with Red Cross communicators about how their attitudes to the environment had changed thanks to the project. Leo Bubb, better known as Bubbis told participants “we need to get the young people involved in the environment.” Len Peters, another community member who serves as project coordinator, explained, “It’s not just about planting trees. We have a motto of ‘progress through prosterity’ which means we want to leave something behind for the young ones. That’s why we go into the schools to teach the kids.”
Red Cross societies around the Caribbean are implementing similar projects in response to specific vulnerabilities identified by communities. The communicators provide support to these disaster management programmes in order to help people prepare for and respond to disasters. Marva Edwards-Oculien, former Youth Director at the St. Lucia Red Cross currently serving as Communications Officer said, “I’m going home to make the St. Lucia Red Cross a household name for disaster preparedness.”