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|(left to right) Mary Dekle, Irene Cabral, Bonnie Harrison, Dr. Michelle Edouard, and Stephanie Fenton.|
The Florida Department of State's "International Days 2001" conference was launched February 20 in Tallahassee with the FAVA/CA Volunteer Outstanding Achievement Awards in the opening spotlight. More than 400 international leaders and key members of the State's cultural community held discussions with federal, state and private sector leaders about the nature of Florida's interaction with the world.
At the awards ceremony, five Volunteer Corps consultants were recognized with Outstanding Achievement Awards for their work with other nations. Secretary of State Katherine Harris noted that these volunteers reflect the finest tradition of the Florida International Volunteer Corps.
"These experts unselfishly give their time and share their talents with colleagues overseas. Their impact goes beyond sharing skills and insights, it materially contributes to improved social and economic conditions overseas. These improvements directly benefit the region, and because Florida is a Caribbean State, they benefit ourselves as well," she said.
FAVA/CA Board Chair Diane McNeel also presented remarks at the ceremony, honoring the recipients of the Year 2000 Outstanding Achievement Awards, who include Irene Cabral of Tallahassee, Mary Dekle of Tallahassee, Dr. Michelle Edouard of Miami, Stephanie "Stevie" Fenton of Madison, and Bonnie Harrison of Gainesville.
"Working on FAVA/CA projects has been extremely rewarding," Irene Cabral said. "It is so nice to work with people that are really interested in learning from you and your expertise."
Cabral joined the Volunteer Corps as a consultant in 1999. At the time, she was a senior management analyst in Florida's Division of Emergency Management. Her skills in disaster management came in high demand in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which were both hit hard by hurricanes in recent years.
Mary Dekle, owner of the Dekle Group, a business dedicated to working with non-profit organizations in fund-raising, began serving as a volunteer consultant with FAVA/CA in 1998. She offered training to the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society and other community groups on a broad range of topics, from brochure design to strategies for increasing and accessing funding. In 1999, she worked in partnership with Development Associates of Washington, D.C., to help develop management skills for the Uplifting Adolescents Project in Jamaica.
Michelle Edouard is coordinator of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at the Miami-Dade County Health Department. Founder of Profamil of Haiti, the first family planning association of that country, Edouard conducted training missions in 1998, 1999 and 2000 in Haiti, dealing with a variety of health issues and provided workshops on cancer screening, symposia on prostrate, breast, uterus, colon and rectal cancer, as well as helping to promote national awareness of the importance of early detection.
Stephanie "Stevie" Fenton is a teacher/administrator at North Florida Community College in Madison, and a nationally certified interpreter for the deaf. She has excelled in delivering training for the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD). Because of Stevie's strong commitment to the deaf of Jamaica, there has been a major policy shift in JAD's approach to educating Jamaica's deaf. "Working with FAVA/CA has done so much for me personally," Fenton said. "I have professionally been rejuvenated and have begun working on projects and research that I had identified as interesting but had not pushed myself to work on. I am able to quantify and define my beliefs in deaf education. All of this is possible because of FAVA/CA."
Bonnie Harrison is the director of education with Gainesville's Hippodrome State Theatre. As a FAVA/CA consultant, she brought that organization's innovative youth development model to Antigua in 1996, offering "improv" workshops that help young people deal with issues such as violence, substance abuse, and other risky behaviors, as well as follow-up training for teachers and youth leaders. The effectiveness of her approach led to workshops in Barbuda, St. Lucia and Grenada.
Following the awards ceremony, the attendees were addressed by El Salvador's Foreign Minister Maria Eugenia Brizuela de Avila, who saluted the Volunteer Corps' work in her nation.
Veteran FAVA/CA volunteer, Joseph Citro, executive director of the Catholic Charities Foundation of Tampa Bay, spent four days in January consulting with Fundación Neotrópica, a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve the rain forest and to use resources wisely in order to benefit the local populace and others throughout the world.
Because the organization is launching a major fund-raising campaign to address a decline in funding, Executive Director Vera Varela sought assistance in developing a new institutional marketing strategy.
"I was asked to review the fund-raising plans, development ideas and public relations activities of the organization," Citro said.
While he was in Costa Rica, Citro met with board members, discussed programming with staff members, observed a fund-raising presentation and offered feedback, traveled to a project site in the rain forest and met with farmers who are served by the organization.
"The mission took on many levels," Citro explained. "We looked at the structure of the board, the specific strategies and justifications of the current fund-raising campaign, how to get current donors more involved and the need for the development of a strong public relations plan."
Citro noted that the organization has had a great impact on the way that farmers interact with the rain forest. Farmers are taught how to diversify their crops, plant trees that will support their crops, make use of all materials, and become economically independent, thereby decreasing the depletion of the trees in the rain forest, which would be sold for their wood.
As a result of Citro's assistance, Fundación Neotrópica has decided to implement an annual fund development campaign rather than a five-year campaign and is going to target the campaign to more specific needs; a public relations plan will be developed; program proposals will be more comprehensive; and the Board will assess its current structure and consider changes.
"It was an intense week that allowed us to evaluate our program, to widen our understanding of fund raising, to spend some time reflecting on our work and most importantly to interact with Mr. Citro who not only has a deep understanding of the topic but is a wonderful human being," Varela said. "We send our deepest thanks to FAVA/CA for the support it has provided to strengthen our organization."
Citro, who continues to consult with the organization through email, echoed Varela's description of the mission. "I enjoyed it very much," he said. "The people were very receptive, very interested and very dedicated. This is an organization with a great deal of heart. You always come away learning more than you give."
Last September, as part of the United States Agency for International Development-Haiti's Secondary Cities Program, Robert Ratliff, an instructor at Florida State Fire College (FSFC), traveled to Jacmel, Haiti, to conduct a workshop for the Volunteer Fire Department. At the close of this training, an offer was extended to Haitian officials to bring a a group of firefighters to Florida for additional training.
The invitation was accepted, and in January a group of firefighters from Jacmel and Cap Haitien visited FSFC in Ocala to receive training. The subjects covered included Personal Protective Equipment, Fire Behavior, Building Construction, Hose Operations, Flammable Liquids and Gases, Hazardous Materials and other subjects. The instructors at FSFC were also able to furnish each firefighter with articles of protective clothing as well as additional clothing and equipment for use when they returned to Haiti.
"We have found that no matter where we go, firefighters have a universal commitment to their fellow man and community," Ratliff said. "My hope is that this is the beginning of a growing relationship of training and sharing for the greater purpose of protecting people from the ravages of fire and other disasters in this part of the world."
Adouin Zephirin, the fire chief from Cap Haitien, accompanied the group and said that the training was very important for the firefighters.
"The Haitian firemen who went to Ocala for a two-week training received one of the best trainings that the Haitian Fire Service has received so far. It was a great experience for both Haitian students and American instructors to learn the culture of each other and share the reality on the fireground," he said. Zephirin added that he would like to see training continue in a number of areas with the assistance of FAVA/CA and other organizations.
The University of South Florida Center for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CDMHA) has partnered with FAVA/CA to provide much needed training in emergency management in the Caribbean. CDMHA was founded in 1998 as a partnership with Tulane University, New Orleans, and is housed in the College of Public Health on USF's Tampa campus. The mission of CDMHA is to facilitate collaborative education, training, research and information and communication services between disaster response and humanitarian agencies primarily throughout the western hemisphere.
The CDMHA - FAVA/CA collaboration begins with training requested by St. Lucia's head of emergency management, Dawn French. Scheduled for June 2001, the St. Lucia workshops will include: Mass Casualty & Incident Command, Disaster Planning for the Aging Society, Damage Assessment, and Exercise Design. Volunteer Corps consultants for the event will be top experts in the requested specialties recruited from USF faculty and state emergency professionals.
Additional training in urban fire and rescue and hazardous materials management is being planned for Fall 2001 at the request of CDERA, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency. CDERA is an inter-governmental regional disaster management organization established in 1991 as a permanent regional mechanism to coordinate regional disaster management activities. Presently, sixteen participating nations are members of CDERA.
|Mark Ravenscraft (sitting) with Lady Golding and Jamaica Coalition on Disabilities members.Photograph by Tom Lundergan|
The Jamaican government recently passed a national disability policy similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because Jamaica is experiencing severe economic difficulties and resources are at a premium, the Jamaica Coalition on Disabilities, an organization consisting of disability service providers in Kingston, requested FAVA/CA's assistance in developing a plan to implement the policy.
Mark Ravenscraft, managing director of Ravenscraft Group, an international consulting firm in Tallahassee, and his aide Tom Lundergan, conducted several days of training for the Coalition in December 2000, to help them devise a strategic plan for the future. A follow-up training mission is planned.
The consultants met with six of the national agencies that focus on disability policy and services. They were able to facilitate a consensus strategy and set priorities for the Coalition to help implement this national policy.
"I worked with key committees of the Coalition to plan and prioritize a fundraising and resource development program to attract grants and other types of assistance from Jamaicans abroad, international foundations, and aggressive fundraising efforts within the country," Ravenscraft explained. "Part of my effort during the trip was focused on helping them develop an operational structure."
The Coalition will soon incorporate as a nonprofit entity, which will enable them to receive grants and conduct more formal activities. The consultants also worked on a media and public education strategy to increase the public's awareness of the Coalition.
"Jamaica has a good number of capable leaders in the disability community. They only lack some of the tools and preparation necessary to deal with public policy, legislative bodies, and government bureaucracies," Ravenscraft said.
According to Ravenscraft, technology, including resources such as the internet, email systems and desktop publishing, is also an important way the Coalition can compensate for lack of financial resources. The need for training, he noted, is greatest in the area of media relations and public education campaigns.
Wilbert Williams, chairman for the Coalition, said that the training was extremely successful. "It gave us a chance to look at what we've been doing and see how we can improve. Mark facilitated the thought process," he observed.
"It was very rewarding to share with local Jamaican disability leaders the innovative ways they have worked around attitudinal, cultural, and resource barriers to achieve a National Disability Policy," he said.
"Jamaica, despite its economic problems, is a warm, inviting, and beautiful country. Lasting friendships and collegial exchanges, which will continue for many years, were part of the rich rewards of volunteering my time to conduct this training and consultation."
Florida Department of State Library Program Specialist Mark Flynn, based in Tallahassee's Division of Library Services, consulted with Annette Smith, acting director of the Barbados National Library Service and her staff to develop a strategic plan for library automation.
Cataloging has been done by hand in card catalogues, a labor-intensive process that has led to a large backlog of books and also diverts staff time from other services.
The training took place February 10 to 14 and included meetings with local elected officials and business leaders to build support for the project.
Coastal towns in Haiti are especially vulnerable to disasters in the form of floods, hurricanes and other natural phenomena, but the Center de Developpment des Ressources Humaines (CDRH) is extending efforts to mitigate loss of life and property through continued training.
Working in collaboration with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the organization requested assistance in improving the maps in their action plan to clearly show the houses in the area and the degrees of vulnerability for each hazard, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
William Pollock, senior GIS analyst with the engineering firm Post, Buckley, Schuh and Jernigan, Inc. in Tallahassee, traveled to Jacmel, a coastal town in Haiti, to conduct training for CDRH staff in the use of GIS this past March. The assignment was important to Haiti as a point of initial contact and collaboration between U.S. and Haitian GIS professionals.
The mission included meetings with private consultants, several key individuals from the State University of Haiti, engineering firms, other international organizations and Jean-Sebastien Roy, executive director of CDRH.
"Impacts of the assignment include recognition of existing GIS design options, need for current, detailed large-scale GIS data and the beginning of a Haitian network of GIS professionals that may be able to help CDRH grow their GIS via data sharing and GIS technical assistance," Pollock continued.
Pollock identified CDRH's greatest challenges and made recommendations to develop a simple but clear and concise procedure plan to help guide the development of their Geographic Information System.
"CDRH is rich with staff talent, and the success of its hazards/vulnerability mapping and GIS development lies in this crucial component," Pollock said.
"The assignment was incredibly rewarding and educational for me as a volunteer, both professionally and personally. I especially value the contact and developing relationships with CDRH's Jean-Sebastien Roy and FAVA/CA's Marc Roger," he added.