Stories from the field

month November 2015

Siobhan Davis – Blog Post 2: Merrymaking

For this next blog, I have chosen to write about some of my experiences with my unaccompanied minor students, who have grown to become some of my closest friends. The event I will be discussing pertains to a dinner I had at my house a few weeks ago, and how I feel this can contribute to my Capstone Project as well as improving relations and understandings between ‘foreign’ people with ‘different’ values and traditions.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any feedback!


Nicola Craig Hora – Blog 2 : Preparing for Disasters

For the past week the CITYNET Yokohama Project Office has been facilitating a study-visit with 14 delegates from Iloilo in the Philippines. The visit is a part of the Community Based Adaptation and Resilience Against Disasters (CBARAD-II) project that has entered its second phase.  The CBARAD project is working to develop sustainable DRR practices in Iloilo by enhancing disaster preparedness at the local government level and in local communities. The study-visit’s purpose was to learn about Disaster Crisis Management in the City of Yokohama. Session topics ranged from Planning Disaster Risk Reduction Management with a presenter from the Crisis Management Bureau of Yokohama to Community Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction with an Associate Professor from Yokohama City University.

On the last two days of the study-visit, we went to Kobe to meet with Plus Arts, a local NGO that works in DRR education for children, and to visit the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution and the Kobe DRR Museum.

After a long week of DRR related sessions I began to reflect on my own level of disaster preparedness. I pride myself in my ability to stay organised and prepared for expected events but I realised this week how unprepared I am for the unexpected.

During my first week in Japan I bought some instant food supplies, a two-litre bottle of water, I made sure to check where my local evacuation site is, and I left it at that. The instant food supplies included two packs of instant ramen, some instant rice, and some instant corn soup. The rations would have lasted me less than two days and in order to become consumable all my food items required water, meaning that my two-litre bottle would have disappeared quickly in the event of a disaster.  

The day after I returned from Kobe I decided that it was time to create a better-stocked disaster kit. The Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution is an emotionally heavy experience. The disaster museum lets you relive and learn from victims’ experiences. It really made me rethink my own disaster plan.

In Japan you are required to register yourself at your Ward Office within 15 days of moving to a new house. When you register they provide you a package with information on the ward and this includes a disaster manual that explains how to prepare for disasters. After getting home from Kobe I decided to finally go through the manual.

The ward has translated the manual into English and it contains information on how to make your house earthquake proof, it provides emergency contact numbers, evacuation areas, a full map of the ward including its evacuation areas and centres, and a tsunami hazard map. 

On the last page it provides a list of items that are necessary to take with you in the event of a disaster.

The ward recommends that when you evacuate who should carry:

–       Water (canned/bottled)

–       Imperishable/simple foods

–       Paper plates, paper cups

–       Hardhat

–       ID cards

–       Toiletries

–       Masks, tissues

–       Standard Medicine

–       Mobile Radio

–       Flashlight

–       Mobile phone and Charger

–       Work Gloves

–       Vinyl bags

–       Writing utensils

–       Cash

Supplementary items include:

–       Clothing and blankets

–       Soap, hand sanitizer, dry-shampoo 

–       Medical kit

–       Lights, heat packs

–       Slippers

–       Tape

–       Whistle

–       Valuables 

I tried to follow the list and I now have 9 litres of bottled water, energy bars, canned fish and meat, more packs of instant rice, soup, electrolyte packs, a small toiletry kit, plastic cups, plastic wrap, a lighter, and face masks. My dorm has hard hats, radios, and flashlights so I did not feel the need to purchase them.

Plastic wrap is probably one of the most useful items to have in a disaster and I was surprised that it wasn’t on the list of recommended items from my ward. In addition to using it to preserve food, it can be used to wrap up plates and bowls so that you do not need to wash them, you can just discard the used plastic cover. It can also be used to wrap up wounds or to use with a splint in order to stabilize a fracture. 

So, now that I have prepared this stockpile just how prepared am I for unexpected disasters? Just this morning my floor was woken up to the fire alarm going off. At first I thought it was an earthquake warning, then I assumed it was a drill but still I rolled out of bed to open my door and see what was going on. Sure enough there was smoke, quite a bit of it, so I rushed back into my room grabbed my phone, passport, and wallet, put on some shoes and headed for the emergency exit. Upon getting downstairs I realised that I was in a tank top and had not taken a sweater. I also did not have my Japanese cellphone with me and instead took my SIM cardless phone from Canada that without a Wi-Fi connection I could only use as a flashlight and to play solitaire. Fortunately the whole fire issue was dealt with quickly and before long we were able to go back upstairs and I could get ready for work.

The whole thing really made me think about how lucky I actually was. What if it had been a big fire? I should have at least brought a jacket or sweater with me. Yes it was sunny out and the weather is still quite warm in Japan but who knows how long I could have been stuck outside. I knew that there was smoke and it had the potential to become something bigger so why was I not instinctually more prepared?

I guess the one thing that makes me feel a little better is that before heading down the emergency staircase I ran into my neighbour who wanted to take the elevator down… I quickly told him that was a bad idea and we took the stairs down together.

If anything I think that this evacuation experience can be seen as a sort of drill. The timing aligned perfectly with my experience stockpiling for a disaster and I have learned a lot from it. It’s through making mistakes that we are able to learn so next time I will at least remember to bring a sweater. 

Ben Lawrence – Blog 1: Singapore – Constitutionalism from Above or Below

In this blog, I discuss a recent paper, reviewing Kevin YL Tan’s The Constitution of Singapore for the Australian Journal of Asian Law. In the process, I explain how the act of reviewing a book about a constitutional system that I am less familiar with actually helped me to reflect upon, and clarify, my own approach to working on constitutional law. Hence, I also use this blog as an opportunity to introduce readers to some of the methodological commitments that underly my own research.

Nadya Jamal – Blog 1: Walking tour of Intramuros – the historic walled city of Manila

Here is my first blog about a walking tour we did of Intramuros in the Old City of Manila.

Yasmine El-Hamamsy – Blog 3: Creating Opportunity

My previous blog posts have been a relatively narrow, and almost simplified, discussion of the status of illegality that an individual might be subjected to. In this, I have critiqued the national and international systems in place that work against individuals who are displaced or seeking refuge, and inhibit them from accessing certain rights, freedoms, and opportunities. Sidelined in my own discussion, though, are the ways that people are actively working against this system.  

On the one hand, the fact that I’ve neglected this aspect doesn’t really make sense to me. The simultaneous confrontation of, and effort to work through, the system is such a core aspect of the Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI), it should have been an obvious point to raise. At the same time, it makes me realize the extreme naivety I had (still have, only maybe a bit less extreme) at the beginning of this internship. At the beginning, I was still in a state of processing how and why human rights were not being afforded to certain individuals, those deemed “illegal.” And, although there’s still endless information to be processed and learned day to day, I’m starting to catch up with MSRI’s pace. The institute is not only recognizing the infringements on basic rights that are occurring, but they are responding to them. MSRI has an ongoing developing role as an active advocator and channel for human empowerment for those who have been categorized as illegal within Malaysia.

MSRI has an incredible and dynamic grass-roots approach to supporting refugee and migrant communities in Kuala Lumpur. It is an organization focused on directly addressing the issues that affect its clients, those who have been displaced from their country of origin and cannot properly access rights. MSRI, those who contribute to it and take part in its programs, create a cooperative and empowering structure. Its foundation is grounded in the incorporation of each stakeholder in the most individually fitting way possible. In particular, this occurs through a project of MSRI, the Sahabat Support Center (SSC).  Despite its role as a support center, it is simultaneously supported by its clients who act as volunteers in the services MSRI tries to offer. Teachers, translators, nurses, each displaced from their own country, and working to enable others to access services that may not be accessible otherwise. At the same time part of this team includes the local, and foreign, “legal” individuals organizing, and administering to fit the various pieces together. Each individual, no matter the state-deemed title of legality, plays a unique and important role, making it possible for each other individual to simultaneously play their own role.

Through this system on cooperative support, MSRI has created a unique community within diversity. Something that should not be as unique as it is, yet demonstrates the institute’s progressive approach to human interaction and cooperative support. As a prominent aspect of this diverse community, language plays a massive role in these interactions. Language, and the ability to take part in this form of self-expression is one central method of individual empowerment. Being able to speak and be understood eases the process of addressing your own needs. At MSRI, this form of self-expression is encouraged through its systems of interpreters, and language training. In the clinic, translators and nurses, both legal and illegal, enable others to access physical, and mental healthcare. In the hopes that families will be resettled, and since both Malaysia and resettlement countries speak English, the primary and secondary school programs focus on English language development. English classes are also available for adults. In addition, programs for economic empowerment are facilitated and supported by the SSC and MSRI structures. This includes cooking and vocational training, such as craft-making. These crafts are sold and 100% of the profit returns to the specific person who created the craft.

As the programs, and numbers of those involved, expand, cooperative growth is a necessity to maintain functionality of the supportive system created within MSRI and SSC. A positive feedback loop is established, more individuals seek support, and therefore more individuals can offer support. As people join, they bring along their unique experience and ability to be incorporated into the system, modifying its functionality along the way. As an organization MSRI is still working to establish a more rigid and fixed structure. At the same time, its fluidity is a strength that allows adaptability to variables, opportunities, and numbers. This freedom of evolution, particularly as a contrast to the strict, and limited systems of state structures (i.e. of human legality), continues to create and recreate the structure of MSRI and SSC. It demonstrates the importance, and the ability, of humans themselves to adapt. In its many projects, the institute attempts to provide a structure that this adaptation and human ability can grow through, addressing limitations, and cooperatively creating opportunities.

Elizabeth Thipphawong – Podcast 1: Interview with Leanne Dixon Perera

Pre-departure interview with fellow CAPI intern Leanne Dixon Perera.

Harshada Deshpande – Podcast 1: Interview with Dugal Monk

Introductory podcast with fellow IYIP Intern, Dugal Monk, about his upcoming internship placement in Manila at Migrant Forum Asia.

Valerie Paradiso – Podcast 1: Interview with fellow CAPI intern Brian Hutchinson

Interview with fellow CAPI intern Brian Hutchinson before his placement to the Centre for Migrant Advocacy in the Philippines. 

Leanne Dixon Perera – Podcast 1: Interview with Elizabeth Thipphawong

Interview with fellow CAPI intern Elizabeth Thipphawong before her placement at Migrant Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

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