Seline, 27 years old, Deutsch
From Holland With Love

Reducing the risk of disasters in Ecuador

16th of April 2016, 18:57 hours. The people living at the coast of Ecuadorian are mostly finishing up their day, cooking for their families or watching some television. When suddenly the earth starts the tremble. Trembles are not unusual, but this time it continued for 40 seconds long and the movements are more intense than ever. It felt like the earth turned into a sea with giant waves, making it impossible for people (and buildings!) to keep from standing up. This earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale was the heaviest in Ecuador’s modern history and took the lives of 676 people.

This event is the main reason why I am currently living and working in Ecuador.

As part of the EU Aid Volunteers Programme, I am part of a project led by the local organisation Ecuasol, working on disaster risk reduction: helping people prepare for and simultaneously reduce the risk of another disaster. My name is Seline, I am 27 years old and come from the country of cheese, tulips and rain: the Netherlands. Being born in Germany, I have lived in different places in the world and Ecuador is my third Latin-American country I can call my home for a while.

My background is in criminology, doing research on what aspects of nature (biology) or nurture (social environment) make people commit crimes. Being interested in topics of international security, I worked for three years for the Dutch Ministry of Defence. Advising decision-makers in politics and military operations on policy topics, such as gender (the role of women in war and peace operations) and migration. However, I could not find enough international focus in my civil servant job, and therefore decided to change it up and come to Ecuador.

Here in Ecuador, I work and live in a team of four in Pedernales, the epicentre of the 2016 earthquake.

Together we started from scratch and developed our own project on disaster risk reduction. We work together with other NGO’s in the same region and offer workshops to rural communities on topics such as water management and disaster preparedness. Furthermore, we offer a helping hand to the local government by participating in the organization of emergency drills and providing them with workshops on for example evacuation.

Next to designing and giving workshops, I draw upon my personal experience and provide a gender-sensitive perspective in our work. The majority of victims during disaster caused by a natural risk, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, are women. Furthermore, in disaster preparedness, it is often the men who take charge and the view point of life style of women are often forgotten. Therefore, it is of the utmost importante to take into account the role of women in the community and encourage their participation in decision making.