INTERVENING WITH THE COMMUNITIES
My name is Raphael P. My « EU Aid Volunteers » placement led me to work on different, various and interesting topics. I learn a lot but also often face some challenges. As Community Awareness volunteer, I spend much time understanding the functioning of the Ecuadorian communities, especially in the Pichincha region (where Quito is located), which is our main geographical area of action.
I met several community leaders, in their house but also in the framework of community meetings, which are organised once a month, usually on Sundays. The topics tackled are often the same : ownership legalisation, files in process with the governmental institutions. It concerns the roads’ quality, the frequency of public transportation or the access to basic services. « Mingas » -general interest work- are realised once a trimester, depending on the emergencies. Communities gather to repair a road or reforest a part of the district. These actions are often done in cooperation with the « municipio » -the local town hall, which can bring its support. Here in Ecuador, communities are responsible for what happens in their « barrio » through their « district governments ».
Sometimes, meetings can be tense. People are quite stressed: this is their only day off and they are often reluctant to attend. There are regularly misunderstandings between private and communitarian issues. However, many people show a real commitment for their district and are really involved in improving the general situation. The majority of these people have always lived in their district and will stay there their entire life.
I join these meetings with communitarian leaders and town hall representatives. I took the opportunity to present our project, Fundaçion Ecuasol, and the EU aid volunteers initiative, although it is quite difficult to insert a risk reduction session in the agenda, populations being more focused on short-term issues.
Unsatisfied with the small impact I could have, I quickly found other solutions to work on this subject. Collaborating with town halls is often a limited solution: government’s institutions are in restructuration after the elections and are often inviting us to be patient before being able to speak to the key persons of the risk management departments. Furthermore, it seems to me that the communities I work with are quite well aware of prevention measures and of material to use to face natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. When I worked with children, their great level of knowledge on the topic also surprised me.
To sensitize the population of Quito to existing natural threats and basic preventive measures
As time passes, I realise the major issue in terms of populations’ vulnerability is above all about buildings and anti-seismic construction. This is why I actively look for partners, which can support directly institutions working on this topic: we multiply appointments and are beginning some partnerships in order to realise common actions with Ecuasol. We also met architects to coordinate a technical support to people who are building their house. A project is in process at La Paz district and I will participate in the coordination. Indeed, in the Northern districts of Quito, many individual houses are not built to resist to natural disasters. Several explanations are possible: new floors are added to houses as families grow, lack of financial means to pay specialised architects.
I also organised a presentation of an “Introduction to the humanitarian world” for 50 students of the French Highschool of Quito. That was a really great experience, for them and for me. They were very interested and I hope that some of them will continue getting informed on the subject and maybe work in this area in the future. I will make other conferences about similar topics during the next school year.
We also helped organize an event called “Ciencia Alerta”, with the aim to raise awareness on natural disasters in Ecuador, and to inform the population of Quito about basic preventive measures. Once again, I could notice the importance of construction in explaining the vulnerability related to these natural threats. The short-term objective is to develop a partnership and to be integrated into a project of another institution, in order to increase our impact.