written by Karen Dapunan, PREP
Barangay Sacme is one of the most vulnerable barangays in Tanauan Leyte because of its location in a low-land and flood-prone area. On average, residents in Barangay Sacme experience 3-5 typhoons a year and flooding typically occurs after 5-6 hours of continuous heavy rainfall. The most devastating typhoon in recent history was Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) that killed over 20 Sacme residents in November 2013. About a year later during Typhoon Senyang, floods reached up to 5 feet and destroyed homes, property, and livelihoods.
Thanks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding, Barangay Sacme was selected as part of the Planning for Resilience and Effective Preparedness (PREP) Project because until the start of the project in July 2015 there was no disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) structure or programs within the barangay. The early warning system was inadequate and the only emergency equipment available was one megaphone and one generator. Only the barangay officials were trained in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) while the rest of the community did not know how to mitigate or prepare for disasters.
Residents of Barangay Sacme were invited by CRS staff to participate in the PREP project and volunteer as DRR Ambassadors. The role of the DRR Ambassadors is to work with the barangay leadership to establish the DRRM structure for their barangay.
Nicanor Starkey and George Marces are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) who volunteered to become DRR Ambassadors of Barangay Sacme. Both men admitted to feeling powerless during Typhoons Yolanda and Senyang. They became DRR Ambassadors because they wanted to learn how to help themselves, their friends, and neighbors survive during future typhoons and other hazards. They studied the basic concepts of Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CBDRRM); Climate Change Adaptation (CCA); and the DRRM context in the Philippines.
During coaching sessions with CRS staff, they learned to facilitate trainings organized for their fellow Sacme residents. They taught their neighbors how to be more prepared for future disasters. Both Starkey and Marces are now members of Sacme’s Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Management Committee (BDRRMC) and have participated and contributed to the formulation of the first Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan and Contingency Plan for their barangay.
As PWDs, Starkey and Marces bring a unique perspective to the BDRRMC which is reflected in the plans being developed by Sacme. Starkey and Marces ensure that the plans are inclusive of the needs of PWDs and other vulnerable residents.
Starkey and Marces themselves once felt powerless but are now empowered to teach others to how to be safer and more prepared for future calamities.