Walking together through the path of recovery
by Martina Benedetti
Barahona, Dominican Republic: Before coming to the Dominican Republic I never thought that strong rain could cause so much suffering to people. In my country, Italy, the rainfalls are usually seen as something useful - it helps the land to grow fruit, it cleans the polluted air and takes away dust and viruses that cause illness to the population. Here, in this Caribbean Island, when people talk about rain, they fear big devastation, floods, house destruction and loss of lives.
When I arrived in Santo Domingo, the Noel and Olga Tropical Storms had just passed, and there was a lot to be done for the affected population. I had the opportunity to open a field office in the Duarte Province, one of the most affected in the island and continuously hit by floods. Then I came to help coordinate the program in the central office, but still maintaining a strong presence in the field, where the communities live and need our help.
In August we organized two big events in the two provinces where UNDP’s Early Recovery Programme is in place. We presented a publication that was the result of a long and interesting work carried out with the communities, their local authorities and many other local actors that had been involved in this process since the beginning.
The Plan for Recovery, which was prepared and presented together with the communities, will be an important tool to raise their voice, empowering them to understand the problems of their land, and most of all enabling them to find ways to reduce risk and avoid the repetition of the same scenarios of risk.
We also granted approval certificates to project proposals designed by local organizations who applied for the Livelihood and Environment Recovery Fund. We did not just give them a piece of paper, we provided them with the instruments and knowledge required to help their people overcome future natural disasters, and most of all we gave them hope and something to fight for.
Many of these local organizations had plenty of ideas but did not know how to turn them into projects. We provided training on how to prepare a project proposal, and helped them submit projects, step by step, until the day of the project selection by a commission of local representatives… they were the leading actors in the process.
I feel very proud to be a volunteer, because this role placed me among the people in need and from the very beginning I was able to walk with them through the difficult path of recovery. I offered a friendly hand and we all learned about the recovery process - the theory turned into reality.
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