Kalmunai - To take disaster reduction messages to the people and engage local volunteers, one UNV volunteer found himself out on the street…
People in Sri Lanka frequently suffer from natural disasters, from cyclones to floods and landslides: perhaps 32,000 died due to the 2004 tsunami alone. To enhance local capability to deal with the problem, UNV is working with UNDP and the Government of Sri Lanka on a capacity building for disaster risk management programme.
Funded by the Government of France and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the programme is now in its second phase and is expanding beyond tsunami-affected areas to other locations and issues.
The town of Kalmunai sits on a coastal belt vulnerable to flooding. "During one trip [past Kalmunai]," UNV volunteer Sivaguru Thanigaseelan explains, "I witnessed a natural disaster – a flood. So I suggested to Government officers, youth clubs and NGOs that the blocked canal should be cleared by volunteers."
Using his local knowledge, the Sri Lankan national came up with outdoor theatre as an unconventional way to capture people's attention about the issue.
Mr. Thanigaseelan noticed that there were many fine arts students in the town. "Using a street drama performed by students for the mass public and business communities in this area would be a great way to attract these volunteers and get the interest of the community," he continues. Government officials, schools and students agreed to the idea and the street theatre was born.
In one performance written, directed and performed by local volunteers, the UNV volunteer and his team created interest by demonstrating flood prevention techniques. A crowd gathered to see what was happening, and after seeing the drama citizens came forward to clear the debris that caused flooding.
This activity was designed through the SRTAC (Strengthening Resilience in Tsunami Affected Communities) project, which is implemented by local NGO Sarvodayam Kalmunai, coordinated by the District Disaster Management Centre in Ampara.
The project involves 11 national UNV volunteers, who create linkages between Government counterparts, development partners and the community. The project, which comes under the umbrella of the UNDP Capacity Building for Disaster Risk Management programme, has been running since December 2008
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