IDFR in the Field – Working Together in El Salvador

Eric Corzine recently completed a trip to Central America and related my experience in Guatemala in a previous blog post, Guatemala Trip to Support Disaster Resilience Leadership – Re-Energized. I also wanted to relate my experience at another workshop in the region with our university partner in El Salvador, Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA). The workshop was held for the Disaster Resilience Leadership (DRL) program, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The DRL university partner holds a series of two leadership workshops for local humanitarian assistance practitioners (Fellows), and the UCA held the second of these workshops during the week of March 19-23. Fellows came not only from El Salvador, but also included Fellows from Nicaragua. Before the workshop, they were also able to meet on another goal of the DRL program. The Fellows workshop trains existing leaders in the field of humanitarian assistance, however the university partners also work on training the next generation of leaders by establishing a master’s level program. The UCA met with university faculty, local NGOs, and the Fellows to discuss the master’s level program.

He was excited to go to the workshop because it provided me with an opportunity to eat pupusas again. A pupusa is a traditional El Salvadoran food and is a stuffed thick handmade tortilla, from corn or rice flour. Delicious! But that wasn’t the only reason I was excited. I was also excited because the Fellows had presentations for a panel of donors from the Spanish Red Cross, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Usually, partners will work on an Action Plan between the two workshops, addressing a local or organizational need related to disaster. These Action Plans will usually be done individually and at times in small groups of one to three Fellows. However, the UCA decided to group the Fellows by country and prepare a proposal for a panel of donors in order to receive expert advice to improve the proposals and better prepare them to present to actual donors for funding. The teams for both El Salvador and Nicaragua identified vulnerable communities and activities to analyze and develop plans to increase local resilience within the local Disaster Risk Management systems of each county. They were able to receive feedback on the proposals from actual donors and incorporate this into their proposals.

Working Groups of Fellows from El Salvador and Nicaragua.

They will now use these proposals to solicit the support of donors to help these vulnerable communities. They have already setup meetings to move these proposals forward in the hope of obtaining funding.

The UCA also met with university faculty, local NGOs, and the Fellows from both El Salvador and Nicaragua as they began to develop a master’s level program in humanitarian assistance leadership as part of the DRL program. They discussed the needs of the humanitarian assistance community and the resources of the university in the meetings. There was the recognition of the importance of the program for the region and additional meetings have been set to further develop the curriculum and timeline for the program.

As they developed their donor proposals and master’s level program, the UCA and Fellows demonstrated an ability to work together and work across “silos”, as the participants were from different sectors, professions, and nations. They were able to demonstrate the power of the network when we work together.