In Portugal, children that have participated in the CUIDAR Project worked on the issue of disasters whose frequency and intensity are expected to increase as a result of climate change.
Dialogues with children and young people took place in three Portuguese localities. Between April and May 2016 we conducted pilot workshops, involving pupils from two 4th grade classes and two 9th grade classes. The results from workshops with the 4th grade were presented to the school community and to two Civil Protection representatives in a special session. Based on this first experience, between October 2016 and February 2017, the team organized workshops in Albufeira and Loures, followed by Mutual Learning Exercises with local decision makers in the field of education and civil protection. In each locality we engaged with a 4th grade class and a group of volunteers from several 9th grade classes.
The workshops in Albufeira were organised in cooperation with the Municipal Civil Protection Service. Albufeira is a coastal city in the Algarve Region, with around 41 thousand inhabitants. In November 2015 the downtown area of Albufeira suffered severe flooding, which caused damage to houses, commercial spaces and roads. Some years before, five people died due to a cliff collapse at the beach. We chose Albufeira because of these two events, since we expected that children and young people from the area would have an enhanced risk perception.
The workshops in Loures relied on the collaboration of the municipal services of education and of civil protection. Loures is located in the periphery of Lisbon and its main climate change related risks are flooding and heat waves. The last significant flooding event occurred in 2008, although the large floods from 1967 still echo in the minds of many citizens, due to the high number of victims.
During the workshops, children and young people from Albufeira and Loures had the opportunity to develop activities around the topic of disaster, exploring in particular extreme climate events that had occurred in their cities. All groups elected flooding as a priority risk to reflect upon, and Loures 9th grade group also worked on its school vulnerability to storms and cold snaps. During the sessions the participants also discussed the role of several civil protection agents, as well as the vulnerabilities and capabilities of their own cities. At the end of the workshops, besides having devised their own measures of risk reduction for the preparation, response and recovery stages, the participants also designed messages and communication materials to present to institutional representatives of the civil protection area.
In the Mutual Learning events, children and young people had the opportunity to present the workshops’ results to members of the local Civil Protection Municipal Committee, namely their own flood prevention measures. Among the measures proposed by the groups, we highlight, among others, the creation of a flyer targeted at children to raise awareness about disasters, the creation of volunteer clubs to work on the theme of risk reduction and the organization of a cleaning contest at school to avoid garbage accumulation and obstruction of rainwater ducts. During the exercise, the institutional representatives made comments on the presentations and children and young people asked them questions, which were readily answered. Feedback from all participants was very positive and some of the proposed ideas were met with compliments and promises of implementation.
The results of this process will be presented in the national event “Children and Young People Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction” that will take place on the 31st of May 2017. This event will gather the 9th grade participants, representatives of Civil Protection services on local, regional and national level, as well as specialists in the field of children and young people participation.