CHIANG RAI – Plan International, with support from Prudential Life Assurance (Thailand) Public Company Limited, recently launched the “Chiang Rai Safe City Model: Creating Resilience to Disasters” event and signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Governor of Chiang Rai, to create Chiang Rai as a safe city model that is resilient to disasters.
The event aimed to build and strengthen the capacity of students, teachers, general public on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
The Governor of Chiang Rai, Narongsak Osotthanakorn, local government officials and private agencies join forces to promote disaster preparedness among schools in Chiang Rai, Province.
As Chiang Rai Province has seen more than its fair share of natural disasters over the last two decades, with rural and remote areas of the province struck by tremors, floods and landslides, many of them related to climate change.
Such disasters impact entire communities but children and young people are often the most affected as they lose opportunities to learn and develop, as well as, in some cases, their schools and homes.
Plan International, an independent development and humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls, is trying to lessen the impacts, if not the disasters themselves with its new initiative, the “Chiang Rai Safe City Model: Creating Resilience to Disasters”.
Launched at the Princess Mother 90th Anniversary Building in Chiang Rai and supported by Prudential Life Assurance (Thailand) and the Chiang Rai Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group, the “Safe School” project began with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Plan International and the Governor of Chiang Rai, under which the NGO will collaborate with provincial-level governmental organizations and agencies in promoting disaster preparedness among schools.
The aim is to establish Chiang Rai as a model province in the sustainable management of such calamities as earthquakes, floods, mudslides, storms and forest fires.
Youth representatives attending the launch spoke about building safe schools and joined a forum on integrating collaborative efforts to reduce disaster risks at places of learning. Disaster preparedness demonstrations and exhibitions were also featured and included emergency response and preventive activities organised by students and staff from the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Regional Office No 15, Chiang Rai and other agencies.
Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said Mae Suay and Mae Lao districts were the most earthquake-prone areas in the country. He added that Plan International’s initiative to work with schools would make the children more aware of disaster-response practices, which they could then share with relatives and friends.
Plan’s program director Yupaporn Boontid explained that to date, Plan International has worked with 48 schools and seven learning centers to provide children and youth in high-risk communities with access to safe, quality education.
“Plan International has partnered with Prudential Life Assurance (Thailand) and the Prudence Foundation to pursue the safe school project in 25 schools and one learning center in Chiang Rai, Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya and Phang Nga. Plan International will publish a safe school guideline manual for other schools to adapt to local conditions and will also push at the policy level to ensure that the safe school model is included in both Ministry of Education plans and school action plans.”
Prudential’s Kanlayanee Vajarobol added that the company considered disaster preparedness an important part of the company’s commitment to helping less-privileged Thais.
“Through partnership with Plan International, we continuously support disaster risk reduction. Our staff has prepared 500 survival kits for distribution to students. Each kit contains basic items that children and families need in order to survive and sustain themselves for three days in the event of a disaster.
This project does not seek to repair any disaster-inflicted damage but focuses on educating children about disaster preparedness. This will provide lasting knowledge on how to cope with disasters, which participating children will be able to share with or teach to their parents or relatives.”
The following day, volunteers from both Plan International and Prudential Life Insurance (Thailand) traveled to schools under the Safe School program in Mae Suay and Mae Lao districts in Chiang Rai Province, all of which were damaged in the 6.3-Richter scale earthquake in 2014. The emergency kits were delivered to two representative schools: Bansanklang Radpattana and Pongphrae Withhaya to help prepare for future disasters and other emergencies.
“We were not prepared to deal with disasters,” admitted Montri Nuanchen, principal of Bansanklang Radpattana School. “We had no knowledge and did not even have a disaster management plan. Now, thanks to Plan International, our students and teachers have that knowledge. We have evacuation drills every semester and the students receive training in various skills including preparing an emergency kit, how to use and tie different knots in ropes, how to evacuate tall buildings as well as providing basic first aid and CPR.”
At Pongphrae Witthaya School, students have created a disaster preparedness learning center where they display emergency tools and equipment and learning materials to educate their fellow students and their families about how to prepare for disasters. One of the school buildings was damaged during the 2014 earthquake and has now been rebuilt with an earthquake-resistant structure, with support and funding from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
Pannee Saeger, 16, an M3 student at Pongphrae Witthaya, said she has learned a lot about disaster preparedness and feels confident that she and her friends can help themselves and others should disaster strike again.