Disaster Preparedness: A Taiwan Perspective

By Yin-Chun (Ingrid) Yeh, United Way of Taiwan

“Disaster is an issue of vulnerability. Our role is to prevent hazards from becoming disasters. However, outsiders can only help; it’s insiders that must do the job.” Inspirationally, this is the first lesson that I learned from Give2Asia's Disaster Preparedness forum.

I am amazed to realize that there are so many partners working towards the same goal in their own regions and communities, no matter how difficult the circumstances are. If it were not for the forum, we would never be able to have these fireside chats to discuss our problems and solutions. The impact is unpredictable. I have exchanged useful information with partners from more than ten countries, like introducing the biggest Chinese social enterprise platform to Mr. Prashant Singh, the founder of Himalayan Climate Initiative, which is a social enterprise incubator for many young leaders in Nepal. Meanwhile, after talking to the Development and Deployment team of Project DynaSlope of the PhiVolcs about a landslide early warning system in the Philippines, I’ve started to wonder whether the mechanism could be implemented in Taiwan. These dialogues and connections are like prolific seeds, which will grow into something more powerful than we can imagine.

Aside from community partners, I’ve also learned a lot from Mr. Birger Stamperdahl, President of Give2Asia and the international donors who attended. The speeches reminded me that it’s important to first understand donors’ perspectives, so that we’ll know where the gap is and how to communicate with them. When confronted with issues that are essential but lack in visibility, like disaster preparedness, our job is to make the issue visible. Quantifying and recording these issues is a must for us to influence donors with sufficient accountability.

The core competence of United Way of Taiwan lies in our connection to more than 350 small and medium sized community-based organizations. The forum called attention to our strengths to be leveraged in DRR and other preventive work, including but not limited to disasters, by utilizing these connections. I was inspired by IIRR President Mr. Issac Bekalo when he talked about lessons from the 3-year program, that partnership is built on give and take, based on learning but not teaching. Without learning from our community agencies, there’s no way for us to grow together.

During the forum, everyday I was bathed in sunshine, fresh ideas and friendship that I got from like-minded lovely people. I will surely miss everyone, firmly believing that we’ll bring more community partners in and witness fruitful produce growing after the rain.