ODPEM youth ambassador ready to engage her peers

ODPEM youth ambassador ready to engage her peers

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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KYLA Gaynor, The Queen's School fifth former who was recently selected as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management's (ODPEM) first youth ambassador, has already proposed several ideas to increase engagement at the agency.

“A suggestion I made is for a virtual town hall meeting. With the Ministry of Education [Youth and Information], we could host virtual town hall meetings on a regular basis about various topics that impact students at all levels. The topic of disaster preparedness, appropriate responses and emergency management for young persons has been lacking in a time when so many youth have been affected by a diverse array of risk factors,” Gaynor said in a Jamaica Information Service ( JIS) interview.

“...The role of the ODPEM youth ambassador, being the first of its kind, can be heavily utilised for the enhancement of matters needing representation at the level of Parliament or Youth Parliament,” she continued.

The youth ambassador was named after winning the organisation's Hurricane Preparedness Digital Poster Competition in 2020. The initiative is one of the methods used by ODPEM to further engage youth in disaster awareness and preparedness.

Gaynor said her win was unexpected, but she is prepared for her new role, as it gives her a platform to reach even more of her peers.

“... I felt great when I won and when I got the position, because I felt like I could really make a change or educate my peers about preparing for disasters and disaster management. I've always been very prepared. I don't think there was a time when I was unprepared for stuff like this, so it isn't anything new,” the youth ambassador said.

She told JIS News that she was looking forward to community development and outreach events where she can get more youth involved in “community service, development and nation-building”.

Her influence in that area has already started to show as several schoolmates have enquired about becoming an ODPEM youth ambassador or being facilitated as an assistant to one.

Director of information and training at ODPEM, Delmares White, said the organisation was confident in its selection of the youth ambassador and will equip her with the necessary skills to carry out her role.

“We are excited and very pleased. We believe that we have made the best selection this year. We hope that this initiative will be mirrored in the years to come and that the groundwork that we're laying this year is going to really be a flagship to lead what we do next year as we build on it,” she said.

“We have arranged for training for our youth ambassador under the National Disaster Risk Management Volunteer Programme. So this is something that is on the radar for 2021. It is our intent to not just submerge the ambassador but to have her along with other volunteers. That may take place between March and April of this year when we are preparing for our June initiatives. What we will do in that regard is sharpen her skills, give her more information and get her more involved in what happens at the community level,” White said.

Gaynor is expected to create and implement outreach projects to increase awareness of disaster risk management among youth in Jamaica through activities, such as training, knowledge sharing, and clean-ups.

She will also participate in ODPEM's campaigns and initiatives, the first being the Earthquake and Tsunami Awareness Campaign.

ODPEM said it was taking steps to protect its youth ambassador by making some of her initiatives electronic or virtual, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and to only include her in the disaster preparedness and recovery or restoration phases, but not the disaster response phase

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