Sustainable Tourism Specialist Gail Henry Returns from U.S. Embassy Sponsored International Visitor Leadership Program
“Very hectic but quite informative.”
That was the assessment of Gail Henry on her return from a very timely International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on the topic of Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery.
Henry, who is a Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, participated in an IVLP on “Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery” from 30 May until 19 June along with candidates from around the world.
The IVLP is the Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. While there are different versions of the program based upon both profession and number of countries involved in a given program, all have the objective of bringing together emerging leaders in their respective professions to learn from how U.S. experts in this profession operate, and to share best practices with the other program fellows who hail from either the same world region and often the globe.
The ‘Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery’ program explored best practices for dealing and recovering from hurricanes and other similar weather related disasters. The program also examined the latest science on extreme weather and took into account the range of future climate change scenarios.
Participants were introduced to the methods used by U.S. planners, paying special attention to the lessons learned from previous hurricane seasons and also looking at the co-ordination efforts between government and non-governmental organizations in the U.S. and affected countries.
The program took Henry across four different states in the course of three weeks, starting in the capitol of Washington D.C. where participants spent the first week examining the response of federal agencies to natural disasters.
The IVLP Fellows then moved on to New Orleans, Louisiana, where they explored the lessons learned from and the after effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This week included touring the Lower Ninth Ward and meeting with Laura Paul, the Director of Development for non-profit lowernine.org to discuss the organization’s work in teaching home rebuilding skills and facilitating access to social services.
From New Orleans it was a natural progression on to Houston, Texas, where many of the internal refugees of Hurricane Katrina fled, to explore how the city coped with internally displaced persons and long term recovery.
The last place Henry and her fellow IVLP participants visited was Miami, Florida, a city which has coped with many hurricanes. There the fellows discussed the latest science on extreme weather patterns, looked at models for large city planning for catastrophes, as well as planning for climate change as it relates to rising sea levels.
Henry said she came away from the three week program with fresh ideas and perspectives on how to approach hurricane and disaster planning, particularly from a tourism angle.
“From a tourism perspective, not only volunteerism but ‘voluntourism’ should be actively encouraged on a more global level,” observed Henry.