Rizalyn Biong, a 28-year-old mother of three, is one of the millions of people that were heavily affected by Typhoon Haiyan in December 2013. But Rizalyn is no ordinary woman, she is one of the most energetic community risk assessment facilitators in Plaridel village of Dagami town, Leyte, in the Philippines.
CARE has been organising community risk assessment trainings since Haiyan swept through the Philippines. Rizalyn’s role is to help her community members understand what disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) means.
“It was really devastating. I had just given birth to my youngest child when the typhoon happened. We didn’t expect it would be that strong. I struggled a lot because I couldn’t give breast milk to my baby because I hadn’t eaten anything,” Rizalyn says.
Rizalyn received an emergency food pack and shelter repair kit from CARE and local partner Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (ACCORD).
“The food was a big help because that time we were all starving. All of the coconut trees and root crops were destroyed. We couldn’t get immediate help from the outside because our village is remote.”
Rizalyn was later contacted by CARE’s local partner ACCORD to become a community facilitator for the planned DRR and CCA trainings in her community.
“They [ACCORD] asked me if I could help in facilitating the trainings. I consulted my husband because I honestly didn’t know what to do. But my husband told me to give it a try,” Rizalyn says.
Although the beginning wasn’t easy, Rizalyn quickly became a champion facilitator. “I still remember myself reviewing the modules at night and practising in front of the mirror,” Rizalyn laughs.
Rizalyn has now helped CARE and ACCORD to conduct trainings in 25 villages around Dagami town. This was the first time she visited villages other than Plaridel where she has lived most of her life.
“The first training was really my adjustment period. Of course I wasn’t used to talking and explaining in front of so many people. Some of them weren’t paying attention because the topics are so difficult, so I challenged myself to engage everyone in my next training,” she says.
Rizalyn started developing her own style of facilitating trainings. She tries to sound very enthusiastic, crack a few jokes, talk in a simple way and give concrete examples that people can relate to.
“I’ve seen people in my community really apply the lessons they have learned from us. Whenever there’s an upcoming typhoon, they already make plans, keep their belongings safe and prepare to evacuate to safer locations,” says Rizalyn.
Becoming a community facilitator has totally changed Rizalyn’s life.
“Before Haiyan I was just staying at home. I really wanted to do something but I never had the opportunity. When I got this chance to help my community, I immediately grabbed it even though I doubted my capability at first,” said Rizalyn.
Rizalyn believes that the trainings should continue to refresh people’s learning about risks and ways to adapt to climate change. She hopes to continue the trainings with her community members to promote DRR and CCA for the next generation.