Audio transcript – Survival stories
Professor Lena Dominelli:
We started looking at what kind of support did people get immediately in the aftermath, but then very quickly it became clear that there was a need for long-term development and reconstruction, and that it was inappropriate to leave people there. So the research highlighted how we needed to do capacity-building as part of the response to the immediate aftermath.
So you gathered survival stories from young people, and their insights into the process of rebuilding. How can young survivors contribute to the rebuilding of communities?
Well, I think one of the things that we found out, which other researchers are beginning to find out now, is that usually children aren't asked what they want to do. But actually, if you get the young people together in groups and get them to talk about what happened to them, how it made them feel, what worries them about what happened, and how they would like to see things fixed, they actually will tell you and they have lots of good ideas – things that sometimes the adults don't think about, because the adults have got a much broader set of worries.
And we found that the young people would say, 'well we think, you know, the first thing we have to do, because we've lost our schools, is to get those people who didn't lose all their books to share their books with other people, so that we can all get our notes back. We want to do some studying, so where can we go and study - you know, well, whilst we're building we can actually just sit here in the corner of somebody's house that's still standing, or out in the open, or just get some chairs and put them round in a circle'.
What we thought was important was, we need to highlight as researchers that there is a voice there that should be heard, that there is a voice there that actually has some really good ideas, and that it allows young people to then feel they have a stake in the development of their community and how it goes in the future, because they are the future of the community.
Would you say there are lessons to be learnt for UK communities as well, when they are hit by natural disasters?
Yeah, I think there are. I think one of the things that I have learnt from places like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and China are that young people are an underused resource. You know, we rely here in this country on our first responders in any emergency – that's the police and the firefighters – to evacuate people, get us out into safety and all the rest of it. We've got young people and we've got social workers and community workers that we train in our universities. We never use them, we never think about how do we use them in disaster responses. How can we think differently and use the resources that we have that haven't been used, so that when we have a crisis crunch point, we don't think 'oh, we only have our immediate first responders to respond to the crisis'?
So is this Festival event a way of flagging the possibilities of community resilience?
Yes, we will be able to say: 'Look, this is what they've done in other countries where they've started to include a community-based resilience approach to what they're doing. What can we learn from that? Can we use our young people, our whole community to come in together and help another community?' This is where linking those who've been affected with those who haven't been affected, in the hope that if you ever need help, somebody will come and help you.
We have to ask ourselves the question more: what resources are there already in a community that's going to be affected, 'cause it may have to look after itself for a period. So what can it do while it's waiting for this other help to arrive? And also, what can people who are living nearby who aren't affected, what can they offer them to help them, so that they can recover more quickly and get back to where they were, to make life better.