Emergency Preparedness in the Classroom

8 July, 2019

Lauren Kann

The ongoing work of IsraAID in Morelos, Mexico, by Summer 2019 IsraAID Humanitarian Fellow Lauren Kann. The teacher spoke of her experiences during the earthquake in 2017, her voice unwavering yet delicate as she shared her story. As she spoke, a translator whispered the teacher’s words to me. The language barrier impeded my understanding of the teacher’s experiences; however, I realized that even if I was fluent in Spanish, I could not have fully digested her story. I could only attempt to empathize by internally referring to my own experiences. I served as a medic in the Search and Rescue unit of the Israel Defense Forces, and was always prepared mentally and physically in case of an emergency. Yet what if a disaster had occurred and I was not equipped with months of training and preparation? Such a situation, which I could not fathom, the teacher now casually described.

Nearly two years after the devastating earthquake, the teachers share their emotions and vulnerabilities with perfect recall. IsraAID Mexico implemented emergency response efforts two days after the earthquake, and continued with long term projects focusing on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in schools. IsraAID’s curriculum not only prepares faculty and students for emergency situations, but creates a safe space for community members to share their experiences. As a Humanitarian Fellow with IsraAID, I have witnessed the high level of teacher engagement and commitment during the program activities firsthand.

The same session that began with a discussion of the tragedy ended with laughter and high fives. The group from Public School 45 prepared for the next activity: body mapping. Teachers outlined each other on large posters, just as a child might during art class. It was inspiring to see the commitment of the teachers as they excitedly engaged with the activities. Through the laughter and joking, they continued to address their memories of the disaster. One group labeled body parts with physical sensations: heart afraid, hands sweating, knees in pain, legs shaking, feet paralyzed. This session revealed to me the brilliance of the DRR program. The psychosocial support and emergency preparedness lessons intertwined with one other to foster a resilient school community.
I watched as the teachers grew more comfortable, delving deeper from physical to emotional experiences, provoking tears in themselves and one another.

Despite the progress of IsraAID’s DRR program in Mexico, I’ve learned that the communities face an uphill battle to arrive at strong and confident resilience. One principal expressed his concern that, while the training has provided his faculty with an important mentality and skill set, the school lacks basic tools such as fire extinguishers. Another school holds classes outdoors, due to ongoing repairs after the earthquake.

IsraAID’s DRR program is far reaching and continues to expand as more schools and municipalities express interest in adopting the program. Two years have passed since the earthquake, and it is clear to me that this is just the beginning. Communities need not only the psychosocial support and training sessions, but the technical tools and confidence to keep the entire community safe in times of desperation.
— Lauren Kann, Summer 2019 IsraAID Humanitarian Fellow in Mexico

On 19th September 2017, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit near Puebla, Mexico. The earthquake struck approximately 140km south-east of Mexico City, just two weeks after another lethal earthquake in Mexico. The earthquake, the most powerful to strike Mexico since 1985, killed over 200 people, injured hundreds more, and led to large-scale destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Since September 2017, IsraAID has maintained a team of psychosocial and water sanitation specialists on the ground. The team continues to provide crucial mental health support to vulnerable individuals and communities affected by the earthquake. Due to the success of its DRR program, IsraAID has been asked to implement the program nationally in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

Lauren is currently attending Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She is one of two IsraAID Humanitarian Fellows volunteering in Mexico for summer 2019.

We need your help to bring relief to the communities of Morelos, Mexico. Please donate to IsraAID’s fund to support our response.

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