Reflections of HOPE in West Papua

Blog Entry by Charles Ham, Global Disaster Response Coordinator at HOPE Worldwide
Aug 2, 2017
The preparations for a week-long workshop is becoming a reality. The trainers traveled from Hawaii, Bangkok, Bandung, Semarang, Jakarta and Ternate to convene in Manokwari for an exciting week with local stakeholders, officials, advocates, and other leaders. USAID, HOPE Worldwide, University of Hawaii, local partners Universitas Papua have all provided support to making this event happen. The objective is to try to streamline approaches to disaster risk reduction, and begin instituting measures for climate change adaptation. As I watched the kick off to the opening ceremony I could not help but reflect on the numerous serendipities that helped make this happen.
The Governor’s remarks initiated the event as relayed by one of his deputies. The rector indicated his pride of hosting the workshop. For Universitas Papua, the training is a major step as they have have begun taking a more active role in West Papua in building capacity and resilience towards disaster and climate challenges. The university began here in Manokwari as a small forestry school decades ago, and has now evolved into a solid state university with numerous programs.
As I sit down to be part of this opening ceremony, I reflect on the work that HOPE worldwide began in Manokwari after a strong earthquake affected the region in January 2009. I can recall so many people traumatized after the event, and I was struck by the our overall lack of understanding of disaster. At that time, the Vice Governor requested assistance in helping children and families to recover from the trauma. In 2010, just over a year later, a flash flood devastated Wasior in nearby Teluk Wondama Regency. Again and again, I am always moved by the local volunteers and staff motivated to help affected families. Such support extended long after the disasters, and I am always amazed by the continued commitment of our volunteer and staff which laster through the phases of economic recovery.
This is when we met Mr Derek Ampnir, who was given the task of initiating a Provincial Disaster Management Agency (BPBD). For the past 7 yearr Mr Ampnir has continued to improve the local infrastructure in disaster management. In 2016, the province was given an award by the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) as one of the best provincial BPBDs. This is notable recognition, although the eagerness to learn among the many gathered in this workshop highlight collective agreement that there is still a long way to go to get to the desired capacity.
The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and its National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) have been valuable partners in disaster management and capacity building in Eastern Indonesia. The team led by Dr Dolores Foley and Dr Karl Kim has evolved over the past five years and has achieved a vision of well-established universities and local agencies in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.
One of the great development of our collaborations in the past few years is the empowerment of the Forum for Higher Education in Disaster Risk Reduction in Eastern Indonesia (Forum PRB Indonesia Timur). The Forum consists of like-minded universities with varying capacities committed to increasing resilience in the region. Universitas Khairun, Universitas Pattimura, Universitas Cendrawasih, and Universitas Papua have emerged to take ledership roles as partners to network and share knowledge among each other while they also aim to empower smaller universities within their provinces.
As the ceremonial event transitioned into the nuts and bolts of training the overview began to lay out the exciting program on schedule in the week ahead. There will be interactive focus group discussions to engage the multiple backgrounds of participants to get the most out of our collective knowledge. In the coming days, participants will begin to learn the tools and frameworks, and reflect on the most recent lessons and case studies to begin incorporating into their day to day work.
Thinking about the disasters we’ve responded to, and helped recover from, I look around me at the group gathered around me and am encouraged for the implications that such trainings help to provide in building more resilient communities.

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