Reports

HANDs! Project for Disaster and Environmental Education + Creativity 2016–2017

In March 2017, 25 young leaders from around Asia completed a four-country tour of the region to observe local best practices in disaster risk reduction and environmental protection. They represent the third batch of an annual programme by the Japan Foundation Asia Center that aims to transform disaster and environmental education into a more accessible and memorable experience.

Here is what the two Malaysian Fellows have to say about the participation.

Comments by Lee Hui Ling, artist and educator:

Hope and Dreams (HANDs!) Project is powered by extraordinary people whose passion, commitment and desire to improve the lives of those affected by disasters both natural and man-made, have inspired three generations of young change-makers from Southeast Asia since its inception in 2014.

General advisor and Chair of NPO Plus Arts, Mr. Hirokazu Nagata, famed for his visionary approach to disaster education through the creative arts, has taught many on how to protect themselves and their loved ones through basic knowledge and skills in disaster preparedness. His philosophy of the “Wind, Water, Soil & Light” framework has been the foundation for the HANDs! Project.

A brainchild of Ms. Ai Goto Araki, the HANDs! Project brings together warm, talented, like-minded people to co-create fun and engaging platforms for disaster education. Country advisor for Thailand, Ms. Ruttikorn Vuttikorn of Club Creative Co. Ltd., has been immensely inspiring for sharing her love and joy in creating wonderful toys and games to educate young people on social and environmental issues. Country advisor from Indonesia, Professor Ikaputra, providing much cheerful encouragement during our prototyping sessions, has helped put seemingly impossible tasks into perspective. From the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in India, Mr. Sudarshan Rodriguez’s down-to-earth advice on problem-solving and incisive humour prompted us to look at issues from different angles, while Ms. Terri Jayme-Mora of Ashoka Philippines’ warm and motherly advice to bumbling newbies has helped us weather the challenges of getting our heads around the enormity of developing sustainable projects for disaster preparedness.

Assistant project manager Mr. Purwoko Adhi Nugroho’s rock solid dependability and abilities to make sure everything runs smoothly and on time is a comfort during the jam-pack learning sessions, field trips and festivals. All the while, taking amazing photos of Hands! Fellows! From Japan Foundation Jakarta and fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, Mr. Fujimoto is no less formidable with his camera; who made all of us look so beautiful in the profile pictures. Project coordinator Mr. Tetsuya Koide made our trip in Manila welcoming and comfortable throughout the hectic schedules. Likewise, Mr. Wathana Onpanich pulled some strings and did the same for our immensely comfortable stay in Phuket, Thailand. I’d like to give a shout out to Philippines program coordinator and wordsmith Mr. Marc Ocampo, as well as Ms. Maki Kudo-san for her smiling presence and gentle advice that made light of difficult tasks. A big thank you to all the people who made the research trips an incredible and memorable experience. I would love to personally mention each and everyone but there is a word limit for this write-up.

The first leg of the HANDs! Project in the Philippines and Indonesia took place from September 25th to October 6th of 2016. Here we were first introduced to Nagata-san’s philosophy for the project, the “Wind, Water, Soil & Light” framework. In Manila, we learnt the fundamentals of disaster field research and data collection though design thinking which were taught by Habi Education Lab; while in Bali, we acquired first-hand knowledge about new working models of social, cultural entrepreneurship and education through Kopernik, Five Pillar Foundation and Paud Cemara Kasih.

The second leg of the HANDs! Project kicked off in Phuket with a series of field trips to communities in Phang Nga, Baan Bang La and Baan Nam Khem which have successfully recovered from the 2004 tsunami. Our memorable stay at Yaowawit School, founded in 2004 by German philanthropist Philipp Graf Von Hardenberg, opened our eyes to an inspiring practical education model and long-term post-disaster recovery for the victims of the devastating tsunami. Here in this school, Ms. Ruttikorn and Mr. Robert Steele of Systainability Asia led weeklong workshops and lectures in gamification and systems thinking.

In Kobe, HANDs! Fellows took part in a series of keynote lectures and workshops taught by Japanese experts on disaster and environmental education such as the KIKO Network, held at the KIITO Design & Creative Centre which was once the historic Raw Silk Testing Centre. Nagata-san led much of the keynote lectures on developing and managing sustainable projects, “Seeds”, based on his aforementioned framework and his successful case studies. Prototypes for the disaster education through gamification were further refined, with feedback from Nagata-san, Professor Ikaputra, Mr. Rodriguez and toy designer-cum-gamification extraordinaire Ms. Ruttikorn. It was a fun and supportive environment in which to acquire practical knowledge on developing education programmes, test ideas and prototypes as well as learn from each other.

Two weeks’ worth of field trips, workshops and lectures in Phuket and Kobe culminated in the grand finale of “Iza Kaeru Caravan x Hands! Together in Kobe” festival, held alongside NPO Plus Arts at Sanbo Hall where our disaster education games were put to test with the Japanese children.

One of the highlights of the Kobe tour was the visit to The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial and the Disaster Reduction & Human Renovation Institute. A highly visual, tactile and interactive learning environment, this formidable memorial takes visitors on an immersive journey through the ravages of the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake of 1995. Complete with dioramas, simulative environments and realia, this museum drives home the importance of keeping in the collective memory the lessons of the past and ensuring full disaster risk reduction through community-based education and disaster preparedness.

Let us not forget the lessons of the past.

Hope and Dreams (HANDs!) Project for Disaster Education is a unique human resources platform that explores creative and artistic modes for developing needs-based education programs in disaster preparedness and environmental education for people of all ages.

Comments by Yeo Li Shian, writer and translator:

The truth about natural disasters is that it is cruel—the danger, blood, loss and hurt. You can read every of their devastating impact in the news. An initiative of the Japan Foundation Asia Center, the HANDs! Project peeled our attention from the realm of the negative and towards the invaluable power of love, persistence, resilience, and gratitude.

One programme. Four countries. We were offered very rare opportunities to leave our comfort zone and look beyond commonly entrenched perspectives of natural disasters.

These memories as well as scenes described by disaster survivors and community leaders during the trips are still emotionally vivid to me: in Manila, the only way to save a family of three—a mother and her two teenage sons—from rising floodwater was to cram themselves onto a tiny plywood-layered bed. The passionate school principal in Bali who tirelessly innovates educational toys for her students. The tough restaurant owner in Phuket who marched forward despite losing her seven family members in the catastrophic 2004 tsunami. And the bits and pieces of archived family memories at the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Museum.

Like all great teachers, the HANDs! experience humanised us. We were reminded over and over again to be thankful for the many little blessings that we often take for granted.

Instead of being cocooned in our individual lives, each one of us can be a Robin Hood in our own right, advocating the culture of environmentalism or disaster prevention and management within our respective communities. It is perfectly possible to change, build (or rebuild) and prepare communities before calamities strike with whatever little resources we have. Much like planting seeds, it takes time to sow great harvest.

With the right preparation however, we can strengthen our communities to weather any storm.

Philippines (26–30 Sept, 2016)

Left: Fellows get down to brass tacks on their first day in the Philippines with an introduction to design thinking by Habi Education Lab.

Right: Fellows interview residents of Pabahay, a community of relocated refugees from across Philippines who lost their homes to various disasters.

Indonesia (2–6 Oct, 2016)

Left: HANDs! 2015–2016 Fellow Bonni Rambatan shares his experience working on his own action plan at Green School Bali, Indonesia.

Right: Kopernik strategic initiatives manager Anna Baranova imparts lessons from her non-profit’s technology-driven efforts to alleviate poverty among last-mile communities in Indonesia.

Thailand (2–6 Mar, 2017)

Left: Fellows facilitate a shelter experience programme for the children of Yaowawit School in Kapong, Thailand.

Right: Fellows attempt to map an evacuation route through Ban Nam Khem in the event a tsunami strikes the Thai village.

Japan (8–12 Mar, 2017)

Left: Indonesian Fellow Eko Prasetyo studies a sign erected in the wake of a flash flood that claimed five lives at Toga River, Japan.

Right: Two boys have a go at one of a myriad games created by Fellows at a disaster education festival in Kobe, Japan.

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