A brush with disaster enthuses Armenian children

Published: 21 November 2002 0:00 CET

Anna Haroutunian in Yerevan

With the aim of raising public awareness of disaster preparedness, the Armenian Red Cross Society (ARCS) has taken its message to the country's schoolchildren. The result is "Children against disaster", an national exhibition of paintings that opened in the capital, Yerevan, on October 30.

The painting competition for children between the ages of 11 and 13, was organized within the framework of the ARCS disaster preparedness and response programme, which is funded by the Finnish and Norwegian Red Cross Societies.

A week before the competition, Disaster Preparedness coordinators in every region of Armenia were in schools, informing and training children about the kinds of disasters Armenia is prone to, how important is to be well prepared for them, and how to behave during and after them.

"Children were buzzing like bees for about a week in our school," says Mrs. Karapetyan, deputy principal of the No 59 school in Yerevan.

"They were actively cooperating with the volunteers and staff, asking questions and taking the training very seriously," she adds. "The evacuation simulation exercise organized at the end of the training cleared up all the issues for them. They understood how important it is to be prepared for the disasters in advance."

The 34 works that form the exhibition touch on a wide range of disasters: earthquakes, floods, fire, volcanic eruptions, landslides and even terrorist attacks.

"It is fascinating to see the training results combined with the children inner feelings on the drawings. We can learn so much from these paintings as well as realize that the messages conveyed to children have been well understood," says Magda Stepanyan, head of the ARCS Disaster Preparedness and Response department.

A jury comprising representatives of the Ministry of Education, the government's Emergency Management Administration, its Crises Management Institute and famous painters selected the best 12 paintings, and the children responsible were presented with special prizes.

The intention is to include the paintings in the ARCS Disaster Preparedness and Response department's 2003 calendar.
"It is very encouraging to see the disaster preparedness educational element combined with the drawing," says Hamlet Matevossian the Head of the Crises Management Institute.

"The approach of the Armenian Red Cross is unique and can be well developed and widely used in all the schools of the Republic as Disaster Preparedness is already a subject in the school curriculum," he adds.

Related links:

Armenia: appeals and reports
Disaster Preparedness
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