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My coaching experience with a Climate Change trainee in the Philippines

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Colin Walker

Colin Walker

Colin Walker is an Associate Trainer for RedR UK and has worked in the humanitarian sector for over 15 years as a programme manager on emergency relief projects and as a consultant trainer and coach.

Mercy Cepe is the Executive Director for CONCERN Inc, an emergency relief organisation based in San Fernando just north of Manila, Philippines.  She recently attended RedR UK’s Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCADRR) training course in Manila in September 2019.  Since then I have had the privilege of coaching her as she seeks to introduce CCADRR strategies into her workplace and advocate for CCA to be included in her municipality’s DRR programmes.   

The online coaching has focused on equipping Mercy with practical tools she can use to build the capacity of staff and local community leaders in Luzon, Mindanao, Cebu and Tacloban.  We have particularly focused on preparing for disaster risk assessments in barangays along the Pampanga River delta in central Luzon. This area is experiencing the combined effects of rising sea level as a result of climate change, regional subsidence caused by the widespread extraction of groundwater from boreholes, and ‘development aggression’ from the construction of a new international airport that is altering the natural flow of water.

Permanently flooded school playground, Balibago school, Masantol, Pampanga

After two months of coaching, I had the opportunity to visit Manila and train another one of RedR’s CCADRR courses.  As her coach, Mercy eagerly invited me to spend a day with her and other colleagues to see for myself the context they are working in along the Pampanga River.  It was fascinating to see how CONCERN is assisting community leaders in the barangays to prepare disaster mitigation plans and consider climate change adaptation strategies for many vulnerable and at-risk people.  She proudly showed me CONCERN’s innovative floating typhoon shelter and we had a lovely lunch of fresh fish from the local fish farms.

CONCERN's floating hurricane shelter, Bebe Matua village

I asked Mercy if the coaching had helped her write DRR plans.  “Yes, with so many natural disasters occurring in the country, the alarm has been set and people are looking at it seriously now.  But even from my point of view, I take it seriously now.  I tell people to increase their DRR capacity instead of just touching on the topic.  It is the core of our work now”. 

Mercy Cepe, Executive Director for CONCERN Inc and RedR UK's Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction training course participant

“Are your disaster risk assessments carried out in the context of climate change adaptation?” I asked.  “Yes, climate change is happening all around us, and I am seeing it particularly affect the barangays along the Pampanga River.  Farmers have been adapting to climate change by converting their rice fields to fish farms as a result of sea level rise, and some schools are building classrooms on the first floor and constructing raised concrete walkways as their playgrounds are permanently flooded with sea water.  Storm surges from typhoons are also higher and more aggressive.  Villagers have to evacuate to the dykes when a typhoon passes as the surge is much higher than it used to be.”   

Mercy said the key learning points for her of working with a RedR UK coach have included:

  • Practical guidance in carrying out disaster risk assessments at community level.
  • How to bring CCA into CONCERN’s communications strategy.
  • Tools to engage stakeholders to advocate CCADRR to local Government. 
  • Empowered to present CCA strategies to the national DRR network of 60 organisations of which CONCERN is a part.

Personally, the coaching has been really fulfilling, it has broadened my understanding of climate change issues affecting the Philippines, and I found Mercy’s enthusiasm and commitment to the vulnerable communities very inspiring.  Visiting the region also enhanced the coaching and enabled me to more effectively plan CCADRR strategies for the target population.  

For further information please contact: mercy.cepe@yahoo.com.ph

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Mercy & Colin visiting barangays on the Pampanga River by boat, Nigui village, Masantol, Pampanga
Mercy & Colin visiting barangays on the Pampanga River by boat, Nigui village, Masantol, Pampanga