Meet Jaime Mok, Facebook Community Leader and PASSA Youth coordinator

As nature-related disasters become more frequent, climate change impacts more people, and socio-economic inequities disproportionally affect these impacts on the more vulnerable, cities become increasingly exposed to risks related to shelter and settlement. To face this trend, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has developed the Participatory Approach for Safe Shelter Awareness (PASSA) methodology to prepare communities to face these risks. In partnership with the NGO Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), they have recently adapted the methodology to capitalize on the power of the youth, providing them with the tools and skills for them to build disaster resilience communities. Archipel&Co had the opportunity to delve into this initiative with Jaime Mok, Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Program Development Manager at HFHI and Facebook Community Leader.

PASSA, strengthening urban communities’ resilience to nature-related disasters

PASSA is a methodology developed 10 years ago by the IFRC, implemented as a joint project in conjunction with the NGO HFHI, who brings in a strong technical capacity. Its goal is to develop local capacity to reduce risks related to shelters and settlements by empowering communities with the necessary tools to improve their living spaces, build safe housing, enhance living conditions, become aware, and optimize decision-making processes. PASSA is composed of 8 activities who teach mitigation and adaptation strategies to disasters, such as tracing a historic profile, map communities, assess the frequency and impact of hazards, learn about safe shelters, planning for change, evaluating problems and monitoring.

So far, PASSA has been widely implemented in more than 30 countries and the training tool has been translated to more than 13 languages,  not only amply used by communities in the recovery phase, but also highly regarded among housing development practitioners. It has been identified to contribute to 4 different SDGs:

Given its strengths, there is an important issue of broadening the reach of the method so that a maximum number of at-risk communities can benefit from the lessons it brings to face increasingly frequent disasters.

Including the youth in the PASSA approach

Among PASSA’s expansion strategy is the central challenge of reaching young people, who, albeit excluded from traditional disaster-managing plans, are as exposed to risk as other members of the community – if not more – and have a great potential to take the lead in the transformation of their communities.

In order to attract this unreached section of the population, PASSA gained a homologue targeted at the youth four years ago: PASSA Youth. The latter proposes an updated list of activities and tools that constitute the methodology – ones that are appropriate to engage 21st century generations: digital tools, collective maps, participatory workshops, social networks, multimedia resources, data analysis, knowledge sharing across communities, all designed to support the overarching goal of empowering 13 to 17-year-olds’ active role in decreasing risk for their communities. The initiative aims at allowing to raise awareness with their peers, prioritize mitigation measures, build and assessing action plans proactively, negotiate with local authorities, among other competencies.

PASSA Youth also appears as an opportunity to introduce technology to individuals who have difficulty accessing to modern information and communication technology. This also requires finding partners who can mentor participants in their digital access and abilities, notably to empower them to map their community’s vulnerabilities and access and develop innovative solutions.

Specific goals have been adopted for the 2017-2020 period, including:

  • Reaching more than 10,000 adolescents in 70 cities in 10 countries in alliance with specialized partner agencies. The main targeted regions are Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific (e.g. India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Fiji, etc.).
  • Train 300 youth facilitators (100 a year) and establishing a network of 2,000 active youth in Central America and the Caribbean and Asia Pacific.
  • Implement 350 community micro-projects in 70 urban communities.

This is to be achieved through 4 main steps:

  1. Adaptation and validation of the PASSA tool with an PASSA Youth kit and awareness materials
    2. Facilitation Kit based on piloting two communities, in Latin America (Puntarenas, Costa Rica) and Asia Pacific (Manila, Philippines).
    3. Training of facilitators in 10 countries and establishing network of 2,000 active youth
    4. Global roll out community projects in 70 urban communities and feedback from 3-year experiences.

So far, PASSA Youth has been deployed in four countries: Paraguay, Salvador, Argentina, and the Philippines. It can still be considered in the pilot stage, in the transition to moving to global roll out.

The Facebook Community Leadership Program as a driver of PASSA Youth’s roll out

With more than 10 years of experience in the humanitarian sector, Jaime Mok is Habitat for Humanity’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Response (DRRR) Program Development Manager in Atlanta (USA) at the NGO’s headquarters. He was previously DRRR Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean in Costa Rica for 6 years. He is also the cofounder of the Global PASSA Network Facebook Group, through which he became one of the selected leaders for the Facebook Community Leadership Program (FCLP).

The fund received through this program will have two main functions, which will each contribute to the project’s expansion over the next years:

  • Creation of a thorough database: Throughout the years, the experience of teaching PASSA to vulnerable communities has resulted in an expansive stock of data and information captured at the community level on vulnerabilities, hazards, and risks, as well as on activities and solutions that can be adopted to face such. Nevertheless, this data has not been gathered in a central database. Therefore, the FCLP will be used to create a digital platform in which all the data collected can be accessed, used and shared by vulnerable communities.
  • Social media strategy: The methodology has had a shallow online presence so far, so the next ambition is to strengthen PASSA Youth’s social media presence, in order to increase its visibility and attract more stakeholders, notably the youth. For instance, the existing Facebook group counts mainly adults, and it is not the first method of communication among the network. Indeed, communities, and especially the youth, prefer to organize PASSA groups on WhatsApp. An adaptation to these observations is necessary if PASSA Youth is to increase its reach.

Jaime Mok on the role of youth, its relationship to digital tools, and the social drivers of resilience

  1. PASSA Youth has recently been created to develop local capacity in reducing shelter-related risks by empowering the youth. What role does or should the youth play in risk-reducing strategies? 

Vulnerabilities and risks to which housing and settlements are exposed to in urban areas are increasing daily due to the increased impact and frequency of natural related disasters, climate change, the growth of social and economic inequities. This trend is affecting the poorest and most vulnerable groups in rapidly urbanizing countries across the globe.
Youth population are a powerful force that could become agents of change in their families and communities. This adolescent age, for example is critical as one needs to define vocations, start thinking about becoming breadwinners and in some cases, start a family. The IFRC sees an opportunity to capitalize on the power of youth groups and train them to acquire a set of skills that will help them to prevent violence and high social risk in their neighborhoods and focus on building disaster resilient communities.

The PASSA Youth programs, designed especially for ages 15 to 17 years, will allow youth groups, mainly in vulnerable urban areas, organized and trained in facilitating it, raise awareness on habitat-related risks among their peers and families, prioritize mitigation measures, build action plans, learn to evaluate and plan proactively, negotiate with local governments and channel resources of local, national and international partners for the construction of housing and disaster resilient communities under the premise that ‘any group of young people should be able to dream about their future with the best enabling tools and technology of their present ¨.

  1. What are the risks and advantages associated with the usage of digital tools in updating humanitarian methods such as PASSA, notably in regard to vulnerable communities? 

Youth are naturally so familiar with technology. When we rollout the community mapping component of the program with adults, it become difficult for those who are not familiar with drawing a map or try to see their houses in a bidimensional way. However, when we do this exercise with youth, some of them immediately opened google maps on their smartphones and start identifying their houses and surroundings with no instructions for doing this. Technology helps a lot to understand events that have affected our communities in the past, to identify features that make our houses and communities safer against the impact of disasters, to plan (and dream about !) mitigation activities, to share stories to local governments and stakeholders, but at the same time to amplify youngsters’ voice trough social media networks, and to crowdsource potential local and global solutions with a wider international network of friends and interested partners.

There are significant limitations as well. One of them is the digital gap that exists in some areas, especially in rural areas where internet connectivity is still an issue and also with young girls that are socially disadvantaged in their access to technology. This is a key challenge that PASSA Youth tries to deal with by forming alliances with interested partners from the private sector, universities, foundations, networks and organizations that would like to join this initiative.

  1. To what extent and how does community, networking and collaboration contribute to cities’ resilience? 

With disasters increasing in frequency, intensity, scope, and scale, the post-disaster efforts to deliver housing to the inadequately sheltered cannot keep pace with the massive and growing need we are observing. In fact, governmental and international aid barely cover 10% of the shelter needs after disasters, adding massive and urgent shelter requirements to the already vast and chronic shortage of adequate housing in the world. Indeed, almost 1-in-4 people on the planet – more than 1.6 billion – will live in substandard and unsafe, overcrowded houses and lack basic services like water and sanitation by 2025[1].

With this in mind, HFHI and the IFRC believe that a strong focus of disaster preparedness at the community level is critical, in addition to meeting shelter needs after a disaster hit. Efforts and donations toward “preparedness” equates to sound fiscal stewardship. According to the Multihazard Mitigation Council, “every US$1 donors invest in building community resilience through our disaster preparedness efforts results in US$4 in benefits”[2].

Our objective is to improve quality of life by building more resilient communities and minimizing the impact of the next coming disaster. An example of this investment is seen in the Washington Post’s coverage of five Habitat for Humanity homes in Bay County, Florida, which remained intact after being hit by Hurricane Michael, while neighboring homes and trailers were destroyed[3].

PASSA Youth is about raising awareness, mobilizing the youth, building capacity and skills, networking opportunities, putting plans into actions, but also about promoting interconnectivity between different generations within the community and with other youth groups from outside the community. The tool will also identify, develop and accomplish a series of community micro-projects that can cover such a wide range as:
• repairs, reinforcement, improvement or expansion of housing, making these disaster-resilient.
• improved water/sanitation and health solutions
• Site mitigation measures such as slope stabilization, soil retention and reforestation measures
• Reconfiguring the neighborhood allowing adequate escape routes and construction of recreational areas and possible disaster shelters.
• Generation of spaces for youth entrepreneurship (including fablabs and maker spaces)

For more information on PASSA Youth, please watch the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUXSu1DKHLs

[1]  McKinsey Global Institute, A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge, 2014. Available from: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Featured%20Insights/Urbanization/Tackling%20the%20worlds%20affordable%20housing%20challenge/MGI_Affordable_housing_Executive%20summary_October%202014.ashx

[2]  The Multihazard Mitigation Council Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities, Volume 1- Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations. Washington, DC, 2005. Available from: https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.nibs.org/resource/resmgr/MMC/hms_vol1.pdf.

[3] The Wahsington Post,  Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost Reinforcements, October 2018. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/panhandle-houses-intact-after-michael-were-often-saved-by-low-cost-reinforcements/2018/10/17/d3ca97c0-d152-11e8-b2d2-f397227b43f0_story.html?utm_term=.a54ca619c80d