Young leaders in the making

By Henry Makiwa, World Vision UK Media Manager at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan

15-year-old Luvsansharav “Luvsa” has been putting his newly learnt Japanese to good use. In the short time he has been in Sendai, he already knows how to compliment the chef for a well cooked meal (“Sono aji yoi”), thank him (“arigatou gozaimasu”) and most importantly, ask for some more (“Mō sukoshi onegaishimasu”).

To top it off, Luvsa finishes his pleasantries with a charming Japanese bow. You can’t help but be impressed by this young man’s aptitude for grasping new tongues and etiquette. The secret to his ability to learn, however, stems from an unlikely source - his headmaster.

Ask anyone in Luvsa’s hometown in Mongolia, and they will tell you that they live with the threat of earthquakes occurring at anytime. With these fears in mind, measures and programmes have been created that help teach children how to respond to disasters themselves.

As a prominent activist and World Vision advocate, Luvsa was asked by his headmaster to find out how other communities and countries protect their schools from disasters. Little did Luvsa know that he would one day end up representing Mongolia at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction Children & Youth Forum in Sendai, Japan last month.

In fact, Luvsa was one of three youth speakers who addressed an international audience of young leaders and dignitaries, including the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Luvsa explained, “In my country, I conduct training on child-focused disaster risk reduction for community children. We understand that training and involving children on DRR are among the best ways to reduce disaster risks."

In his speech, Luvsa went on to explain that he believes children should be encouraged to take part in disaster risk reduction, with national youth councils being established across the world to work with schools and governments. This should make it easier for children to take part in the process - especially by helping to make DRR concepts accessible and easy to understand.

Luvsa’s speech highlighted a theme that was echoed by the other youth delegates in Sendai. Youth at the conference made it clear that they want to be involved in efforts to reduce the risk of disasters, at both community and government levels.

Fellow World Vision child delegate Yudi, 15, also repeated Luvsa’s claims. Yudi hails from Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province, where droughts are a common problem.

"We expect policymakers to learn from us that children can solve their own problems," he said. “As a youth leader in my home country, I have helped others conduct an assessment in a village which is vulnerable to droughts. Children there say the impacts of drought mean that they end up with a lack of study time as they have to support their families when they look for clean water and food in the forests which are far from their homes,” Yudi added.

As the conference drew to a close, delegates from all over the world committed to reducing the damage and disruption caused by disasters to infrastructure, schools and education, over the next 15 years. Answering Yudi and Levsi’s wishes, the agreement also states that children should be encouraged and supported to contribute to disaster risk reduction - meaning the world may not have seen the last of Luvsa and his polyglot skills yet.

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