MUHAMMMAD FAISAL ANSHORY
Disaster Monitoring and Analysis Intern
My name is Muhammad Faisal Anshory, and I am a fresh graduate in Geodetic and Geomatics Engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology. During my studies, I have been passionate about map-making, a.k.a cartography. I also learned about the role of my degree in multiple areas, one of them is the disaster field.
This is why I was intrigued when I learned about HELiX, the Humanitarian and Emergency Logistics Innovation Expo, hosted by the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) and Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority (VNDMA) in 2021.
My curiosity led me to participate in the AHAckathon competition as part of the HELiX event in October 2021, where my team and I had the chance to learn about the efforts of various disaster relief organisations. With the guidance of our mentor, Ms. Smriti, we were trying to come up with a solution to two common problems relief workers face: a lack of centralised real-time information to monitor and coordinate relief efforts and the slow identification processes for needs assessments. Our solution was an application prototype called Holigistics, which targeted actors in the field to quickly assess the supply needed by impacted demographic data and give recommendations for the optimised route service for the supply chain. Our team’s efforts paid off when we were awarded second place among various teams in ASEAN. This experience taught me about the AHA Centre generally and its role in coordinating logistics assistance for natural disasters in ASEAN.
A few months later, I saw a social media post by the AHA Centre announcing an internship opportunity as a Disaster Monitoring and Analysis (DMA) intern. As I had finished my undergraduate thesis, I applied without hesitation and was eventually invited for an online interview. I started my new journey on September 5th, under the guidance of DMA Officers Mr. Keith Paolo and Mr. Sadhu Zukhruf. As a DMA intern, my main responsibilities were assisting in daily DMA activities. The task included monitoring the daily development of natural disasters in ASEAN, data cleansing and analysis of disaster data records, and assisting in developing incidental and routine reports, including maps. Those responsibilities presented unique challenges. The first one is when navigating language barriers when monitoring disaster development in the ASEAN region, where as a multicultural region, each ASEAN country has its own language. The second is that AHA Centre’s products are often reposted by global organisations, meaning the information presented must be accurate, data-oriented, and reliable. Despite these challenges, I am grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact and they raise my awareness about the relationship between humans and nature.
During my internship journey, I was fortunate to be exposed to various valuable experiences that helped me develop new skills and knowledge. One of the most significant aspects of my internship was gaining exposure to cutting-edge technologies used for disaster monitoring activities. Not only did this expand my technical skill set, but it also provided me with a new perspective on the intersection of technology and disaster management. In addition, I also had the opportunity to participate in important events such as the AHA Centre Information Management Network (AIM-Net) and First Aid and Survival on Disaster Training, which helped me develop a deeper understanding of disaster management from a practical standpoint. The meetings with the Centre partners were also a great learning opportunity, as they allowed me to gain insights into how the AHA Centre collaborates with national disaster management organisations of ASEAN member states and international organisations to develop ASEAN’s resilience towards natural disasters.
All in all, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the internship program at the AHA Centre. The experiences and knowledge I have gained during this time have truly broadened my perspective on natural disasters and emergency response and working in a multicultural environment. I am especially thankful to my supervisors, Mr. Keith and Mr. Sadhu, for their guidance and unwavering support throughout my internship. They always challenged me and gave constructive feedback that has pushed me to try new things and exceed my expectations. I also appreciate Mr. Lawrence Anthony Dimailig who has been an incredible source of positivity and encouragement during daily activities. This internship has been a valuable learning experience that has equipped me with the knowledge and skills needed to make a positive impact in the future. I look forward to utilising these skills in my future endeavors and continue to grow as an individual.
Written by: Muhammad Faisal Anshory, Disaster Monitoring and Analysis Intern
MR. MATI RAIDMA
One of the crucial components in ARDEX 2023 was the involvement of referees. When all the SOPs and procedures were tested and exercised during ARDEX 2023, referees played an important role to ensure that the exercise was on the right track. Mr. Mati Raidma, an expert from Estonia, is one of the referees who were involved in ARDEX-23 since the beginning. The Column had the opportunity to speak with him on his experience in ARDEX-23.
You were involved in ARDEX in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, as a trainer during the Referee Training in May 2023. You also directly observed the conduct of the actual ARDEX in August 2023. If you may briefly share with us, how did you become involved in this simulation exercise?
“My first involvement with ASEAN was in February 2020 when I was involved in a meeting between the AHA Center and the civil protection authorities of two EU member states, the Swedish Civil Aid Agency (MSB) and the Estonian Rescue Board (ERB). From there, the project “Leveraging ASEAN Capacities for Emergency Response” (LACER) began, which as one component belongs to the general EU program “Integrated Program in Enhancing the Capacity of AHA Center and ASEAN Emergency Response Mechanisms” (EU support to the AHA Center).
Right after that, I had the opportunity to participate as a LACER expert in the Referees Training for the ARDEX 2020 in Manila, Philippines and helped conduct the course. Unfortunately, ARDEX 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19.
This year, when the preparations for ARDEX 2023 started, I was invited to conduct the Referee Training again and I am very happy and proud about it. And then ARDEX itself – a large and complex exercise that visualised the principle “One ASEAN One Response” and brought this feeling to all the hundreds of participants.”
If you may share with us, knowing that ASEAN is a disaster-prone region, how do you see disaster management sector in this region?
“The Disaster Management system in the ASEAN region is definitely in a phase of rapid development. The base, principles and structural logic have been created. The AHA Center, which has an important role to play in this, is doing its best and the progress is impressive.
In such fast processes, the bigger picture is also important. Getting to know the experience of other regions and participating in global networks gives new ideas and confidence in this development process. And at the same time share your valuable experience – that’s how we make the world a safer place to live.”
Based on your observations during the exercise, what can participants learn from ARDEX 2023 and regional disaster management mechanisms?
“In Yogyakarta I saw the great commitment of the organisers, the resource-intensive preparation of the host country and the satisfaction of the participants – the opportunity to practice together, better understand each other and exchange experiences is especially important here.
Regional cooperation in disasters and adherence to agreed protocols is critical and can be trained in exercises – in a controlled and safe environment. ARDEX plays a unique role in this sense. It is very useful and instructive for the all participants to understand the complexity of the whole operation and the various coordinating bodies.
One of the main ideas of organising exercises is to test the functioning of the agreed procedures (SASOP in the case of ARDEX) and to find ideas and opportunities for development. The work of the Referee team was targeted to support the fulfillment of this task. I hope that the after exercise report contains several useful recommendations for the future.”
Did you see any particular lessons learned that may distinguish this exercise compared to other similar disaster simulation exercises??
“The idea of comprehensiveness can distinguish ARDEX from other similar international exercises. It is great. At the same time, balancing the national and international proportions of the exercise, synchronising the simultaneous execution of CPX and FTX and thereby keeping all the different participants interested and active are very big challenges that I would recommend to analyse when planning the next exercises.”
Could you also please share with us your first experience working in disaster management?
“My experiences in the field of disaster management are divided into two. Probably my first experience relates to the national level, where I have built and led the national system of the Estonian Rescue Service and the Disaster Management Agency in the 90’s. Internationally, I have been a member of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) since 2000, which has given me the opportunity to participate in coordination mechanisms for several natural disasters and in the organising teams of UN Earthquake Response Exercises (UN ERE).”
Written by: Mati Raidma, Moch Syifa
FROM SEOUL TO SEJONG :
AN ENJOYABLE INTERNSHIP IN SOUTH KOREA
November 2022 marked the end of my internship with the ASCEND (ASEAN Standards and Certification for Experts in Disaster Management) project at the AHA Centre. I completed my internship while studying for a Master’s degree in the Civil Society Leadership program at Ajou University, Suwon, South Korea. It is one of the scholarship programs held by KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) under the 2021 Technical Cooperation Program of the Government of the Republic of Korea. Spending almost two years of studying and simultaneously interning in South Korea has been a valuable opportunity to experience what it feels like to work in Korea.
Interning at the AHA Centre feels like I am coming home. I joined as an ASEAN-ERAT member in 2017 and have been deployed on humanitarian missions by the AHA Centre. I have also been involved in some of the ACE programme activities, as a facilitator during the Red Cross Red Crescent Induction Course, and have been invited to join some of the international events. Therefore, when I saw the internship opportunity with the ASCEND project, I immediately applied for it.
The distance of more than 5,000 km between Jakarta, Indonesia and Suwon, South Korea, has made the internship more interesting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having online meetings is no longer a new activity for everyone. I am very much grateful for all the support given to me by the immediate supervisor and other colleagues in the ASCEND program. The working environment is friendly and supportive.
Assisting in the ASCEND Benchmarking Visit to South Korea from 26 to 30 September 2022 was also part of the internship. During the visit, participants from the ASEAN Member States came to Korea to gain in-depth knowledge of how the Republic of Korea responds in emergency situations. We also had the opportunity to learn how the Korea National Fire Agency operates. Again, the visit gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge during the internship. The field visits were one of the most exciting things, since it gave me the chance to participate in offline activities after Covid-19 restrictions. Visiting places from Sejong to Seoul during the Benchmarking Visit was particularly thrilling, especially places that I may not have been able to visit as a student. For example, visiting the KNFA Fire Academy, Seoul Emergency Operation Center, and many more. Seeing the working places related to emergency response in Korea provided me with insights into how South Korea has transformed from a developing country to a progressive developed country.
Again, this internship has given me a broader perspective on working in an international environment, especially in South Korea. However, I do feel something is still incomplete, since my Korean language skills are still limited. Otherwise, I believe I could have contributed more to this internship. As I mentioned earlier, I have had several experiences working with the AHA Centre in Indonesia and on international missions. This internship has added even more value, and it feels like I was being prepared to return to work again after graduation in January 2023.
“Thank you, AHA Centre, the ASCEND Project, and the ASEAN Korea Cooperation Fund, for this valuable opportunity. I am very much looking forward to having more working opportunities with the AHA Centre.”
Written by: Andreane Tampubolon, ASCEND Intern
AULIA DARA NUR ARIFIN
My name is Aulia Dara Nur Arifin (Dara), and I first discovered the AHA Centre many years ago when I was a fresh graduate looking for a job. Being involved with a humanitarian or development organisation has always been my goal, so I bookmarked the AHA Centre’s vacancy page, and it has remained there ever since.
Years passed, and after a somewhat life-altering decision to resign from my previous job and enrol for a master’s degree in Social Welfare, I visited that page again and was delighted to find a vacancy for an internship with the ASEAN Standards and Certification for Experts in Disaster Management (ASCEND) Project, which I applied for in a heartbeat.
Long story short, I received an acceptance email during one of my classes, which luckily was online; otherwise, I would have to excuse myself to express my excitement. Thus began the 6-month-journey of my internship at the AHA Centre.
Previously working in a profit industry and being out of touch with a humanitarian environment made me wary, and I questioned myself numerous times if I could be of help to the project, especially since it focuses on the certification process for disaster management, an area I was eager to learn about but was far from understanding. I was very glad this thought was immediately shattered as the team, consisting of Mas Andrew, Excel and Kak Haura, guided me thoroughly. They not only introduced the project and my responsibilities and tasks within this internship, but also explained how a regional organisation/project operates, maintain its relationship with Member States and other stakeholders, as well as how they carry out their mission through various projects within the AHA Centre.
Not long after I joined, I was greeted with ASCEND’s first project, which was the first Assessor Training in Viet Nam, exposing me firsthand to a regional project’s preparation prior to an event. Although I didn’t attend the training myself, I had a very strong sense of belonging as I was included in every step of the event, an amenity I continued to feel throughout my internship period. Soon after this event concluded, I was greeted with the project’s next event, which was the Benchmarking Visit to the Republic of Korea. Even though the logistical and administrative work were similar to the previous event, the objective was different, and I got to be more involved in the development of its handbook to facilitate the visit.
Upon completing the Benchmarking Visit, I was again greeted by the project’s final big event of the year, the ASCEND Certification Trial Simulation and Evaluation Workshop. It was around this time that my understanding of the project and its objectives became more solid. The prior activities, such as the Assessor Training, the development of the toolbox and its competency standards, as well as the continuous efforts to improve the process through discussions with relevant parties, served as significant steps for this event. My responsibilities grew more diverse, and I was glad to carry out different tasks and become more involved in its logistical and administrative work, which proved to be a crucial process to ensure smooth implementation. I was very delighted and proud to end my internship with such an inspiring event and had the chance of working alongside hard-working, kind, and supportive people.
If I had to describe my internship experience using one word, it would be FUN. The word itself is often associated with an easy-going picture of life, but for me, through what seemed like a roller coaster ride and quakes (literally) of lessons and experiences, I was able to enjoy every second of it and still crave more. Balancing my studies with my internship was challenging, but the ASCEND Project Management Team (PMT) made it easy and was very supportive as they provided me with the flexibility to attend and focus on both without jeopardising the other. This was also the word I used to describe ASCEND’s fifth Project Steering Committee (PSC) Meeting, an occasion I was honoured to be involved in and attend, which provided me with knowledge on how regional forums are conducted, and I was also very impressed to learn a new language. English was spoken – however, I realised how communications used within this setting is always geared towards positivity and encouragement, a significant tool to achieve collective development and progress, which resulted in fruitful discussions and inputs.
People go through different experiences to understand and find meaning in the work they do, and for me, this internship brought it back from a deep slumber. It was here that I discovered how my studies are not just a shortcut to improve someone’s social welfare or achieve a better quality of life. It is an elaborate and comprehensive process of planning, identifying issues and potentials, designing growth and development strategies, and having a well-thought-out implementation and evaluation and monitoring process of its activities and objectives to achieve social welfare as its ultimate goal. For the ASCEND project, the goal is improving people’s lives by providing competent experts and professionals to facilitate disaster management activities. It has shown me that social change takes time because the goal is the development of human capital through capacity building, a valuable investment for the people, which I was very fortunate to be able to witness and experience through my internship for the ASCEND Project at the AHA Centre.
Written by: Aulia Dara Nur Arifin, ASCEND Intern
INTERVIEW WITH DIPO SUMMA,
RESOURCE MOBILISATION MANAGER AT THE AHA CENTRE
LACER’s Johanna Rixer sat down for a chat with Dipo Summa, Resource Mobilisation Manager at the AHA Centre and focal point for the LACER project, to discuss challenges, development and current priorities.
To what extent do differing capabilities among ASEAN Member States create challenges in effective regional response?
“The different capacities of the Member States is certainly a challenge in realising One ASEAN, One Response, Mr Summa says. The ambition to respond collectively as one is one of the biggest challenges, given that all Member States have different capacities. Even if the intention is shared by all. Having said that, there is a silver lining, a bright spot in the fact that the Member States already are capable to respond on an individual country level. It’s a matter of bringing the capacity under the regional umbrella. This is definitely a possibility for improvement within the next years of the AHA Centre’s development.”
What would you consider the best possible development of the AJDRP modules* in the future? In what ways could these be better aligned with current conditions and needs?
“The objective of the response plan is to be able to mobilise ASEAN resources, for immediate activation and deployment. If we can achieve that, we can find real satisfaction. We are truly working towards that goal and we need to have the resources and commitment of the Member States to achieve this. Right now we are in a quite good place with 5 Member States who have registered their assets, but it is not yet tested. This is our next step, to test and to see how it actually looks in practice.”
How can ASEAN deal with the growing differences in risk profiles among ASEAN Member States?
“Many of the aspects are beyond the control of the AHA Centre… what we can do is to focus on risk awareness, raising awareness and providing advice, rather than dealing with the issue of risk profiles as there are so many components that affect this. One mandate of the AHA Centre is to facilitate support when a disaster happens, and this can really help mitigate the disaster.”
How can AHA and ASEAN best assist Member States that face a recurring pattern of weather-related hazards including typhoons and flooding, along with associated displacement of populations? For instance, the Philippines during the period 2010−2021, reported more than 49 million people displaced, mostly triggered by storms. Is this a particular gap that ASEAN can help address?
“With regards to a recurring pattern of weather related hazards and climate change, here we are still focused on preparedness and response, capacity building programmes for member states and anticipatory actions. In this field there is room to do more… to develop a predictability system, supporting the Member States. This is also one of the priorities for the future.”
What do you see as other priorities for the AHA Centre in the coming 5 years?
“For me the AHA Centre will have several important priorities in the coming years. First, as outlined by the ASEAN Vision 2025, the AHA Centre should facilitate ASEAN responding collectively as one beyond the region. By 2024, the AHA Centre will conduct a feasibility study to create better understanding what this means. Secondly, the AHA Centre should continue to support innovation and implementation of new technologies in disaster management, in particular taking advantage of the continuous development in the field of big data analysis and artificial intelligence. Thirdly, the ASEAN Vision 2025 also mentioned the ambition to become a global leader in disaster management by leveraging through the long experience of the region in managing disasters in the region. To support this vision, the AHA Centre aims to become a regional knowledge hub on disaster management, where stakeholders can come to look for data, information and knowledge.”
* (deployable assets registered under the ASEAN Joint Disaster Response Plan)
Written by: Johanna Rixer | Photo Credit: AHA Centre
INTERVIEW WITH LACER RISK ASSESSMENT EXPERT
DR. EMMANUEL RAJU
The AHA Centre held the Public Launch and Webinar of the 3rd edition of the ASEAN Risk Monitor and Disaster Management Review (ARMOR) on 11 October 2022, supported by the European Union (EU). The Levering ASEAN Capacities for Emergency Response (LACER) project contributed to the launch webinar.
The theme was the intersection of disasters and pandemic. Against the backdrop of the health crisis endured globally as a result of COVID-19, the articles highlight how the pandemic affected disaster management policymaking across the ASEAN region. Of particular interest is how ASEAN has adapted its disaster management tools in response to the pandemic, including innovative methods, information and communication technology that can be used to improve the analysis of real-time data and the cross-border provision of aid during disasters, in anticipation of future pandemics.
LACER risk expert, Dr. Emmanuel Raju, participated as a panellist commenting on the article “Disaster and Pandemic: The Exacerbating Effects of COVID-19 to ASEAN’s Disaster Riskscape” by the AHA Centre Disaster Monitoring and Analysis team and Pacific Disaster Center. Queried on how the pandemic had impacted disaster management in Europe, Dr. Raju noted a number of challenges and opportunities for learning which have emerged. A key learning in the context of natural hazards is the importance of talking about vulnerability as a central issue in disaster risk management because in many places, it is very often the same communities, the same geographic locations, where vulnerable populations are repeatedly impacted by disasters or have seen worsening effects over and over.
The pandemic has also forced us to revisit the link between Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and sustainable development.
“If we truly want to achieve disaster risk reduction, we also need to think about the sustainable development goals because at the end of the day disaster risk reduction is about making sure that we have risk-informed development processes.”
LACER Risk Assessment Expert, Dr. Emmanuel Raju
LACER’s Johanna Rixer caught up with Dr. Raju after the event and posed some further questions about learning.
How can academic learning best contribute to developing the capacity of an actor like the AHA Centre that is focused heavily on humanitarian response?
“This is an important question. Most professionals from academia would like to see impact, not only theoretically but to be able to go from theory to practice. We should use the experience of academia and put into practice what we learn. The discussions we had during the webinar are one example of such an opportunity. We also had a very interesting and fruitful workshop within the LACER project looking at risk from a scientific standpoint, where we had participants from the EU and the AHA Centre. The focus was to dig deeper on how we could use science to communicate risks in our day-to-day work. ”
How does the EU deal with differences in risk profiles among its members?
“It’s not easy. Different members have different interests. In this context it is important to continue to talk about impacts of climate change and extreme weather, as well as to nudge political actors to have these issues high up on the agenda. Disaster vulnerability is central to this discussion – both within the EU and the ASEAN. There are also lessons exchanged and learned between EU and ASEAN. Some factors continue to be central to the advancement of DRM in both Europe and ASEAN, such as applying lessons learned to leadership, keeping a focus on vulnerability, etc.”
What do you see as the priorities of ASEAN and the AHA Centre in the coming 5 years?
“Promoting localisation of efforts in disaster risk management, to allow a more robust and timely response and risk reduction efforts, will be of great significance to ASEAN over the next few years. And of course post-disaster, there is the issue of promoting recovery that is green and sustainable.”
Written by: Johanna Rixer | Photo Credit: AHA Centre, NORDRESS
LEADERS TALK: AHA CENTRE EXECUTIVE (ACE) PROGRAMME BATCH 7
“DEVELOPING THE FUTURE LEADERS OF ASEAN IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT”
PROGRAMME BATCH 7
The AHA Centre organised the Leaders Talk as part of the ACE Programme Batch 7 on 29 November 2021. The Leaders Talk is a regular activity under the ACE Programme. For this edition of Leaders Talk, the AHA Centre invited Ms. Liz Hughes, Chief Executive of Map Action, to share her ‘leader’s stories’. One of the ACE Programme’s Participants, Ms. Siti Joriahati Johari binti Johari, is glad to share and reflect her experience with us.
KUDOS to the AHA Centre’s “Leaders Talk” Event!
Thank you so much, Ms. Liz Hughes, Chief Executive of Map Action, for being an inspirational speaker. You are awesome! It was one of such a great, amazing and very inspiring leaders talk event. I believed that all of the ACE Programme Batch 7 participants and the audience learned so much from it.
It was an honour having Ms. Liz at the leaders talk session virtually, where she had shared her stories based on her professional work journey and experience in humanitarian development across the globe.
As she said, “Lean your compass north and trust it. It will guide you in many good ways in your leadership journey. As Chief Executive, I only shine because of what our team achieved, our amazing volunteer team and also our staff”. It was fantastic and really motivated me.
I found that the Leaders Talk was a very beneficial and successful event. It meets the theme of the event, “Developing the Future Leaders of ASEAN in Disaster Management”, and the ultimate goal of the AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme is to prepare the disaster management professionals to be the future leaders with expertise in humanitarian assistance operations and in strengthening the operationalisation of ‘One ASEAN, One Response’.
As a guest speaker, she successfully rocked the boat and woke up her audience with a meaningful and indeed inspiring leadership sharing session. It had a great turnout and a lot of positive feedback following the event, especially during the Question and Answer session. Overall a very engaging afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed the Leaders Talk. It was the most interesting and inspiring Leaders Talk session that I have found.
This event also marked the final week of the fully online module of the ACE Programme Batch 7 since 28 July 2021. Despite the current situation of COVID-19, the AHA Centre team is still committed to continuing its efforts in delivering World Class education for disaster management professionals in the ASEAN region. The team has worked tirelessly with partners to transform a large part of the ACE Programme into a 19-week online module. A very interactive discussion and lesson, I can say throughout participating in this online learning.
On behalf of the ACE Programme Batch 7 participants, I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to all great mentors during our online learning journey, especially to AHA Centre and the Government of Japan, as well as the Government of New Zealand and the United States, the United Nations Agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, GNS Science, AADMER Partnership Group, RedR Australia, US Forest Service, and Academic Institutions such as the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies (APCSS). Kudos to the AHA Centre Team and all great mentors! Thank you for giving us this opportunity.
Written by : Siti Joriahati Johari binti Johari, Disaster Management Officer, National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), ACE Programme Batch Seven – Brunei Darussalam | Photo Credit: doc. Siti Joriahati Johari binti Johari & Map ACtion
KIRAN MAULANA HUSNI
Becoming an intern at the AHA Centre was an unforgettable experience for me. During my three-month communications internship programme, I learned how the Centre manages disasters and provides humanitarian assistance in the region. I am certain that the knowledge I gained from the internship programme will be very useful in my future career development.
My name is Kiran Maroep Maulana Husni, I am 22 years old, a student at Telkom University, Indonesia, majoring in International ICT Business. I was born and raised in Tasikmalaya, West Java, Indonesia, but currently live in Serpong, Tangerang Selatan.
My journey as a communications intern at the AHA Centre started in June 2021 when I saw an internship advertised on the AHA Centre’s website. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to gain experience working in a regional organisation. Realising that disaster management was a new field for me, I challenged myself to apply for that position. To be honest it felt like a gamble for me applying for an internship with an organisation and in a field with which I had no previous experience. Eventually, I submitted my application and waited for word back.
In July, I received an email from the AHA Centre asking me whether I was still interested in the programme, I replied, “Yes, definitely!” Long story short, I was invited to an online interview and a few weeks later I was told that I was hired as a communications intern and my starting date was 2nd August.
As a communications intern, under the supervision of Mr. Moch Syifa, the Communications Officer, my main responsibilities were assisting in conducting media monitoring and social media planning. Social media planning was not a new field for me as I had experience from my previous organisation. However, again, planning social media content on disaster-management issues was a big challenge. At the beginning, I had to conduct online research on disaster-management issues in ASEAN to broaden my knowledge. I learned many new specific and very technical terms during my research, which was a bit stressful.
Aside from assisting in social media planning and media monitoring, I also had the opportunity to join in several important events, such as the opening ceremony of Batch Seven of the AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme, the Fourth EU-ASEAN Cooperation and Scholarship Day, and other meetings with partners, consultants and suppliers. During the meetings, I learned a lot about how the Centre works together with other partners and stakeholders.
Managing communications, particularly for a regional organisation like the AHA Centre, is not easy. I discovered that mapping the audience is significant in order to develop strategies and content for social media. From the media monitoring activity, I learned that studying conversations on social media and in mainstream media was crucial to understanding whether our communications strategies were well implemented or needed some improvements.
Finally, I would like to thank the AHA Centre for giving me opportunities and presenting me with challenges during my internship programme, it has given me strength and widened my knowledge. Thank you Mr. Syifa, as my supervisor, for being patient as you accompanied me on my learning journey. The AHA Centre expanded my knowledge and experience, especially given that I was new to disaster management. I would recommend that other students also apply for internship programmes at the Centre, since they will gain a lot of precious knowledge.
Written by : Kiran Maulana Husni | Photo Credit: Doc. Kiran Husni
LAWRENCE ANTHONY DIMAILIG
At first glance, Lawrence Anthony Dimailig, “LA” to his friends and colleagues, could still pass for a university student. But his youthful looks belie his years of experience in disaster and risk management, his passion for it and how he regards it as his life’s calling.
After seeing the devastation to life and property that Super Typhoon Haiyan left in its wake in 2013, in Tacloban, Philippines, “I made a pact with myself. That was the time I felt that I’d dedicate my life to disaster management. This should be the last time I should see something like that,” says LA. Only military planes were allowed in and out of the island after the typhoon struck in November 2013. “I was aboard the first set of C130s that landed in Tacloban City.” A few days later, he found himself in the back of a military truck riding through the streets, and he remembers it clearly to this day. “You couldn’t distinguish debris from bodies on the road. We passed by what looked to me like a pile of garbage covered with newspapers. As we went past it, the newspaper flew away, revealing the body of a child, about 7-10 years of age. It broke my heart. I vowed then that I would devote my life to saving people’s lives, that this should be the last time I should see something like that. I made a pact with myself that I’d dedicate my life to disaster management. I had an epiphany.”
These were the important experiences that led LA to pursue humanitarian work and disaster management. But his journey in this field started much earlier, while he was pursuing a degree in geography. He developed his skills at mapping and spatial analysis, which eventually led him to humanitarian work. “Mapping is my craft,” he says. “After university, I entered into public service in May 2013. Five months into my first job, I was asked to map all evacuation centres in Zamboanga after the military siege, then again in Bohol when the big earthquake struck the island. I was tasked with mapping all evacuation centres, doing some logistical planning so that the delivery of relief items was efficient.” This was the first time he used his skills for disaster management. This was the point when LA realised that his craft of making maps could actually touch people’s lives. And that was just the start.
LA joined the AHA Centre in January 2019 as a Disaster Monitoring and Analysis Officer. Seven months later, he was promoted to Assistant Director for Disaster Monitoring and Analysis. “It opened up new perspectives to me. The AHA Centre is a coordinating centre that has the regional advantage and unique opportunity of linking one country to another. We do things on a broader scale. We have the time to step back, see the bigger picture, propose new things to make disaster management better and improve the knowledge base.”
He adds that there is more access to resources and higher technology, but realises that a disaster response has to be contextualised. “Things that can work in the Philippines may not work in Indonesia. There are some things that can work in a certain way and you can import knowledge from one country to another.” At the AHA Centre, LA feels he can also help facilitate learning. His first field deployment as ASEAN-ERAT was to Sulawesi in 2018, and his most recent was in 2019 to Lao PDR before the pandemic broke out.
In between humanitarian work, LA finds time to pursue another passion, free diving. Initially, the blue waters of the sea evoked thoughts of the endless deep and its unknown denizens. But all that changed when he took up free diving upon the advice of a close friend. “I had to train first. I went to Apo Reef in the Philippines the first time I did it and saw a huge sea turtle. Wow! The world beneath the waterline was so majestic. It mesmerised me.”
While his new passion led him to discover life beneath the sea, it also exposed him to the destruction humans have caused through garbage and plastic. “I saw creatures wrapped in plastic. We are destroying the environment with the deeds of the bad and the inaction of good people. Now, when we go free diving, every dive is a clean-up dive.” LA is hopeful every time he visits coastal communities that he can get to talk to locals on subjects like community-based waste management systems, and with other people who are equally passionate about preserving the environment.
LA is fortunate to have discovered his calling early on. He is excited for what is in store with humanitarian work through the enabling power of technology. “The AHA Centre has the ‘minds’ to build and impart more knowledge, develop artificial intelligence and machine learning towards finding solutions.” Through the AHA Centre, he hopes that ASEAN countries will become self-reliant, stronger and more resilient in dealing with whatever challenges the future holds.
Written by : Judith Garcia Meese | Photo Credit : Lawrence Anthony Dimailig
INTRODUCING CHARLES SILVA
LACER PROJECT TEAM LEADER
The AHA Center welcomed in August a new team leader for the LACER project, Mr Charles Silva of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).
He has previously implemented capacity-building projects in Southeast Asia, a region that he “respects and holds dear”, but the LACER project offers a big leap in scope, given the significant number of people served by the project and its partner institution the AHA Centre. The ASEAN countries have a combined population of over 650 million people and collectively face growing risks from natural disasters and their increasing impact. Recurring earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, flooding and pandemics take a big toll on the region. For this reason, Charles sought the LACER role as he sees himself solidly contributing to addressing this widening humanitarian challenge and the urgent need to reduce the scale of damage, injury and economic loss caused by disasters.
Charles is well used to working in different countries and cultures, a capability which will prove very useful in the ASEAN region, which encompasses many different ethnicities, languages, cultures and histories. His background combines more than 15 years of experience leading initiatives in humanitarian response and capacity-strengthening in disaster risk reduction and management (DRR/DRM) and this should greatly assist him in making the LACER project a success.
What attracted Charles to the AHA Centre was its dedicated team of qualified staff who currently deliver services across a number of key functions of disaster preparedness, response and recovery. He is looking forward to building on this and helping the AHA Centre team to achieve improved capacity in these areas and indeed over the broader range of project areas made accessible by LACER, while in parallel using the links created by the project to strengthen institutional ties between ASEAN bodies and their counterparts in the EU. Charles is convinced that this cooperation will provide a big boost to the overall capacity of ASEAN’s DRR/DRM strategies.
Like the MSB, each national disaster management organisation across the ASEAN region has a unique way of working and a national context in which it operates. According to Charles, this makes cooperation very complex but at the same time rewarding because each agency can contribute something special and important to the regional effort. “I am really eager and interested to expand my learning of how these national agencies undertake key functions such as preparedness and mitigation to understand their potential contribution to the regional capacity,” Charles said.
When asked what he most looks forward to in the coming weeks, he replied that he had a very hands-on approach to his work, so that above all, he was looking forward to quickly deploying to Jakarta and meeting his counterparts in the AHA Centre in person. He also wants to become more familiar with the team here and ongoing activities, as well as launching new activities under the project.
“We have a lot of exciting initiatives coming up and I am eager to roll these out together with our highly capable partners across the ASEAN region”
The father of two children, Olivier, 8, and Leah, who is still a toddler, Charles and his wife Gitu have their home base in Stockholm, but have been on the road for many years, working in humanitarian contexts such as Myanmar and Iraq. The family spent several years in Nepal, where both parents engaged in rebuilding infrastructure damaged by the devastating earthquakes of 2015. They live an active lifestyle and enjoy skiing, sailing and hiking together.
Written by : LACER Project team & Michael Hillary Hegarty | Photo Credit : AHA Centre