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July 15, 2014

Recalling DRR Education and Public Awareness Approaches in Aceh

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After finishing my Master's Degree in 2010, I came back to UNDP Aceh, Indonesia, to re-join the disaster risk reduction (DRR) project. I was part of Disaster Risk Reduction Aceh (DRR-A)'s Public Awareness and Education team, which was in charge of developing various public awareness and education approaches for the people of Aceh.

I worked two wonderful colleagues, Fahmi Yunus and Muhammad Fuadi. Fahmi is an experienced communication practitioner who has strong background in advocacy, media and research, while Fuadi's strongest expertise lies in the fields of education - including child education and Islamic teaching - which is very relevant to Aceh context. Meanwhile, I brought my expertise in public information management to the team. There was never a boring day. Ideas, solutions, inputs, and finally, initiatives that we were all excited about flew not only in our office's working hours but also over the phone at night, over cups of fragrant Acehnese coffee in the coffee shops, everywhere.

We were very passionate about ensuring that we could effectively introduce and instill the knowledge of DRR to community members. We took up big jobs such as conducting baseline and end-line surveys to measure community's knowledge, attitude, and perception which aimed for nearly 3,000 respondents, running folk performances in villages without DRR information access in 11 districts and cities, or excitedly multiplying community training activities to reach the expected 5,000 indirect beneficiaries. We were always on the run, under the pressure that we built up from our own dreams, but we were happy doing all those things. I guess our positive vibes was contagious. Our implementing partners, the officials in sub-national government offices in charge of education and awareness, embraced the ideas and passion to. The vibes extended to religious leaders, scientists, activists, and even youth, making them part of our DRR force.

Some highlights of our DRR approaches are a baseline survey to measure community's knowledge, attitude and perception towards disaster risks. From there, we developed various knowledge-building approaches. Among them was making disaster risk reduction education a permanent part of the education system in Aceh through the development of disaster curriculum. We also reached out to community's information front-liners, including community leaders, religious leaders, and journalists, to have their hands to support us in disseminating the information and to encourage communities to take mitigation and prevention measures. We conducted drills with communities and disaster emergency responders. We also went to high school and campuses, hand-in-hand with an environmental NGO to campaign for DRR and environmental awareness. We got into Islamic Boarding School curricula. We developed training materials, books, magazines, library, and trained as many people as we could about DRR.

When a 7.2 - magnitude earthquake hit Aceh in January 2012, most community members knew what to do. In a surprise, after that earthquake, Christian Science Monitor - a reputable international media - quoted a community member's testimony, that he knew what to do when such major earthquake happened as he learned from our publications and public information materials. I remember my feeling that day when I read that news. It made me feel so happy that we have done meaningful  thing for others. :)

Here are the lists of some news featuring our public awareness and education works and/or quotes from our speeches or training programs in 2011 - 2012, which documented some of our approaches, and might become some ideas for future DRR awareness-building activities:

International Media/Websites:
> 7.3 Earthquake Hits Indonesia Again, But This Time Residents Are Better Prepared - Christian Science Monitor. This news was then also published in PreventionWeb and ReliefWeb.
Preparedness Works, Indonesians Show - United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Website.

National Media
Journalists Set To Teach Aceh How To Reduce Disaster Risks - The Jakarta Globe. This news is then also aggregated by PreventionWeb, at the following link.
Trik Menulis Bencana, Jangan Cuma Data (Tricks to Write About Disaster: Do Not Only Present Data) - Tempo - a report from our seminar on disaster journalism.

In Local Media (all news are in Bahasa Indonesia)
UNDP: Tinggi Potensi Gempa di Aceh (UNDP: Earthquake Risk Is High in Aceh) - Tribun News
Aparat Pemerintah Dilatih Siaga Bencana (Government Apparatus Were Trained in Disaster Preparedness) - Aceh Kita
Aparat Meulaboh Siap Siaga Hadapi Bencana (The Government Apparatus in  Meulaboh Are Prepared for Disaster) - The Globe Journal
Peran Media dalam Pengurangan Risiko Bencana (Media Roles in Disaster Risk Reduction) - The Globe Journal
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