Friday at the Forum – hot rooms and great ideas

The second day of the Forum was a long one. After a day exploring Sendai by bus, it was quite different to be together in a room all day, with the incredible (for kiwis anyway) heat hardly touched by the air conditioners.
Looking around the room, it was great to see the faces of people from around the region, all keen to work hard and learn from each other.
The day was kicked off with a digital media workshop led by Salvador, (Digital CinematiX) a wonderful Australian filmmaker. Forum participants were encouraged to let their creativity flow and to speak to the world using the great tools available online.
Later in the morning I presented on the first Looking Beyond Disaster UNESCO Youth Forum that took place in Christchurch in December 2011. I showed Anna Cottrell’s moving film about the forum and we were reminded of the energy and the spirit of those few days. The spirit of that forum lives on here in Sendai.
One by one, the New Zealand delegates presented their action plans from 2011, and shared their ideas for future work around disaster resilience and recovery. Many of them told me afterwards how nervous they were, but it was impossible to tell – they spoke brilliantly, and I was very proud to have supported them to participate.
Benazir brought me to tears again with the Rise Up video, performed by students from her school. Many of the international participants have asked us questions about Benazir – who is deaf – surprised that she is able to participate so fully. Thanks to Bryanna and Cathy, who volunteered their time to interpret for us all – I know that Benzair is bringing a unique perspective to the discussions over these few days. And she’s hilarious – there is lot of laughter (alongside a few tears) in these rooms!
Today we also heard a presentation from Tohuku native Tsuyoshi, who told us about the concept of ‘Kizuna’ or ‘the bonds of friendship.’ He told a moving and personal story of his experience after the Tohuku Tsunami, and highlighted again how students and young people step up to support their communities in the face of disaster all over the world.
Kiwi volcanologists Mark and Heather helped us with technical aspects of a particular type of natural disaster (a bit scarier after the last few weeks in NZ) and their talk connected well with an Indonesian presentation on volcanic eruptions in their country, where many died as they refused to abandon their home villages.
The afternoon finished off with workshops on Education for Sustainable Development from ACCU (who got us on our feet exploring the history of the earth) and Tal from Volunteering Queensland who led us through techniques to build community resilience.
After an evening spent working on their new action plans, the participants were set free to enjoy the evening at about 9pm. Cathy and Bryanna were finally able to rest their arms (NZSL interpreting is hard work) and alarms were set for an early start the next morning.
(Vicki)

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