|Disasters and Development: A Peace Corps Pre-Service Training Module (Peace Corps)|
Many of the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve are at risk from natural hazards such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts or floods. Historically, PCVs have often played active roles in all phases of a disaster. Many PCVs have felt frustrated that they could not do more in times of great need (often dealing with life and death) or, in retrospect, that what actions they did take may not have been the most beneficial. Many have also felt that the disaster set back or even destroyed some of the progress the PCVs had been making in their development projects.
Yet up until this point, there has been no organized effort to design training materials to prepare PCVs for effectively managing an actual disaster or the potential threat of one. This deficiency has largely been due to the prevailing traditional attitude that "Peace Corps is a development agency - not a relief agency". This attitude, in turn, reflected the tendency among people working in development to regard disasters as being separate and distinct events having little or no relationship to the development process. In recent years, however, the relationship between disasters and development has become clearer, and disasters are now recognized as being one of the major contributors to underdevelopment. It has also been recognized that, if disaster response is mishandled, many years of development activities can be wiped out or opportunities for further progress may be delayed, On the other hand, if the response is well planned and takes a developmental approach, a disaster can provide opportunities for accelerating the pace of development, and constructive changes can be made.
As development workers, it is important that Peace Corps Volunteers be aware of the impact of disasters and the opportunities that may be presented. The materials in this module have been developed to introduce Peace Corps trainees to natural hazards and how natural disasters can affect development. The information provided should prepare trainees to make decisions on appropriate actions to take during an emergency and how to integrate into their primary development assignments activities that can mitigate the effects of future disasters.
It is important to note that this is an introductory training module. Trainees will learn what activities should be carried out but not necessarily how to do them (i.e., how to build a hurricane resistant house, how to run a health surveillance program, or how to identify what crops are resistant to floods).
It must be emphasized at the outset that even experienced trainers will need to invest a significant amount of time in preparation for this training module. In addition to the supplemental trainer references provided, trainers are strongly encouraged to conduct research and interviews that will enable them to make this generic training module country-specific.
The materials have been written for pre-service training. It is recommended that the training be carried out approximately two-thirds of the way into the training program when the trainees have gained some insight into development. This will allow them to place disasters in the proper context. Also, trainees will have time later in their technical training program (i.e. housing, health, agriculture, small businesses, etc.) to explore with their technical sector trainers specific mitigation activities that can be incorporated into their future assignments. Resource materials are included with this manual which the trainer should photocopy and give to the PCVs according to their specialty and/or their locale.
This training module may also be used for in-service training of PCVs at any point during their service.