Rose's Story: 'I chose to be a chairman'

01:03 Nov 2 2012 Santo Island, Vanuatu

BY Giselle Hall in Vanuatu
The United Nations University’s 2012 World Risk Report names Vanuatu as the country with the greatest risk of natural disaster. Around 80 per cent of Vanuatu’s land mass and 76 per cent of its population is vulnerable to two or more hazards, including volcanic eruptions, cyclones, earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis, storm surge, flooding and landslides.
Rose’s community in Vanuatu participates in CARE’s Disaster Risk Reduction project Yumi Redi/Be better Prepared. Here, she tells her story.
My name is Rose Paul. I am 27 years old and I live in a small village called Piavot, on the island of Santo in Vanuatu … I have three children: the first one is a girl, five years old, and there are two boys. One is four years old and the other is turning one next month.
In my village there are fifteen households. Fifteen houses and a kindie, a church and a nakamal [traditional meeting house]. From here, to get to town, it’s very far. There’s also no clinic and no dispensary nearby, so if someone is very ill you have to get them by boat to go to Malao … It’s especially very hard when us women we are pregnant … Sometimes when going by boat some women give birth in the boat, it’s very bad. And sometimes when the sea is very rough, you cannot go. People sometimes … babies die … children die … It happens in the community.
There’s a big river in our village. The children like to go swimming and diving … looking for shells and fish and lobsters. But when the rain is very heavy, sometimes the river gets bigger and people are very scared. And another thing … the tsunami. In my village it’s quite flat and the hills are very far. I feel very scared, because in my knowledge, in my understanding, sometimes when we are running towards the hills we might get killed, because if the tsunami comes it comes very fast.
Our village has a Community Disaster Committee, and our role is to help the community to cooperate together so that we can save more people. We are trying our best, all our best to let the people know when there’s a danger somewhere. And CARE does a lot to help us learn more. First of all when CARE came here [in 2011] they asked us if we can set up a committee. And then they trained our committee on how to save people and how to help people, for example how to move the community to higher ground when there’s a tsunami. We also learned what not to do in a disaster. Like if there’s flooding, and the water is dirty, we shouldn’t bathe there or drink it because we might get ill if we drink or bathe in dirty water.
One of the best things the community learned was first aid … because there’s not a clinic or dispensary close to us. They were very, very, very glad because of the first aid training that CARE have sponsored. And they are very pleased that they have first aid kits with them … If there’s an injury somewhere they don’t always need to go by boat, they already have supplies with them.
I was very glad when the community chose me to be the chairman of the Community Disaster Committee in my village. People in the community were very frightened [of being chairman], because they say chairman is the person who … he’s the person who talk first and think first and do things first, do the action first before the people. So they were very frightened … so they chose me. So I said to myself, ‘Ok, it’s ok, I’ll try it!’ So I told them … but because I’m a lady, and when ladies talk, men doesn’t want to listen. So I told them, ‘Could you please respect me? When I say something, you follow.’ So they accept me … yeah they accept it so … I chose to be a chairman!
The Community Disaster Committee is doing very well. They’ve learned how to save people when they are in a cyclone or other disaster. Like going and helping them to get to a place where it is safe, how to get them to high ground. They know that if there’s a house near the sea, they have to tell them to move. Because in the past people just stayed in their houses … And especially with the tsunami. In the past when we had an earthquake they just sit there, they didn’t move, they didn’t do anything. But through the trainings that CARE have given us, now we know that if there’s an earthquake the people have to move [in case a tsunami follows]. Now people know … I’ve seen it happen two times. They heard a warning in the radio about a tsunami somewhere in a country outside the pacific and they already move. Because of the trainings that they have got with the CARE team.
I’m very pleased with the work that we are doing, because it helps us to feel secure when there is a disaster risk. We know already what we are going to do, especially with moving … and how to save people when they are injured. And how to be prepared: now if you come to our village there’s no more houses near the big trees, and people build good houses – low houses instead of high houses – to keep them safe during cyclones.

My biggest hope for the future is …. I think that I would do something. For me as a chairman I have to … trust myself… to do something when there’s a cyclone, to do something for my community. And I have to work hard to keep my Community Disaster Committee together, to work with them and the community to build an evacuation house in the future. But already for me as a chairman, I’m very pleased, because I’ve learned a lot for me to help the people in the community in the future.
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