Mae Antonette, 12, from Busao Elementary School, was among thousands of children who experienced first-hand the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol in 2013. Although two years had already passed, Mae Antonette still remembers how the earthquake shook her home and her playground. The effect of the earthquake was further aggravated when Typhoon Seniang hit the area and caused massive flooding in 2014.
“During the earthquake, I was very afraid since it was the first time for me to experience such calamity. I remember panicking and not knowing what to do,” Mae Antonette reminisced.
After the earthquake, many humanitarian organizations provided support to Mae Antonette’s community, including Save the Children, one of the first and longest-running organizations on the ground when the earthquake hit. Under Save the Children’s disaster risk reduction project, Mae Antonette is one of the student members of the 25 school disaster risk reduction management groups and student brigades that are now in charge of campaigning, promoting and implementing relevant plans on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
“When I attended trainings and seminars by Save the Children, I learned what to do during an earthquake– duck, cover and hold and to be sure hide under a strong table,” she shared.
“We regularly have drills in school and after listening to the discussion on DRRM (disaster risk reduction management), I stopped playing with fire because I learned that it is very dangerous and will put the school and our house at risk of fire. After the flood, we decided to move out of our old house which is located in a low lying area and moved to safer and higher grounds because we realized that our risk is very high if we continue to live in the flood-prone area of the community,” Mae Antonette added.
Learning from experience and backed up by technical training on disaster preparedness, Mae Antonette believes she is now better prepared for a typhoon or an earthquake.
“I have an emergency “Go-bag” with me at home, which I check from time to time as my preparation. I learned these from the training. My “Go-Bag” contains over the counter medicines for fever and for pain. There is also medicine for my younger sister and mother. It used to have canned goods and noodles, but we’ve cooked it for now. We just replenish the perishables from time to time. The important documents such as our birth certificates and school records are now kept in a plastic envelope, too.”
Over 500 other teachers and students were trained with Mae Antonette on participatory hazards, vulnerability, capacity and assessments as well as basic disaster risk reduction concepts. The inputs from these training sessions will be used in the school and community’s contingency and disaster risk reduction management planning process as well as the next school improvement plan.
Save the Children ensures the sustainability and continuity of its projects. Mae Antonette, 12, was also provided training on facilitation so she can share what she learned to her fellow pupils.
“I was given the chance to be a facilitator and I was given training to become a good facilitator. It felt good and I enjoyed doing it. I feel empowered. I feel like I am not a little girl anymore and that I have a responsibility. I still feel shy and challenged when I am in front of many people sometimes, but I am now the leader of our School Disaster Risk Reduction Management Group.”
“I make sure that I have a very interactive discussion when I discuss about DRRM in our class so it will not be boring. After the discussion, I think it is more effective and enjoyable if there is an activity, such as role playing sessions,” she added.
More than two years after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol, Save the Children continues to provide support to children and their families who have been affected by the disaster. Through funding from the Prudence Foundation, Save the Children is implementing a disaster preparedness project in two municipalities, Maribojoc and Loon. The organization works with the Department of Education and local government units in improving knowledge, building resilience and strengthening local capacities to implement child centred disaster risk reduction in schools and surrounding communities.