"When I see heavy flooding, I feel really worried. I miss school so much and fear not being able to study. I just wonder if our books will get ruined, and if we'll even have desks and chairs to sit on."
-Voice of Anuwat Kesakaeo -
6th-grade student at Baan Had Suan Ya School.
Ubon Ratchathani is one of the provinces most prone to frequent flooding in Thailand, particularly from July to August. Annual floods often force people, including children, to temporarily relocate to higher floors in their homes, away from the water's reach. Electricity use may be prohibited, and essentials like furniture and appliances are sometimes swept away by inundating waters. Some students need to move to live in temples or stay in tents by the roadside for more than 30 days until the floodwaters recede. In addition to displacement, the flooding has a significant impact on the physical and mental health of these children, causing anxiety, stress, and leaving them with the fear: this year, the waters rose; next year, they might rise again.
The report Impact Assessment of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation on Children in Thailand reveals that Ubon Ratchathani Province is among the top 10 areas in Thailand with the highest risk for children to be affected by climate change. Therefore, it is crucial to enhance every family's adaptive capacity and to educate children on disaster preparedness, as this can significantly mitigate the risks arising from the impact of climate change and environmental degradation.
Rina, aged 25, is a teacher at Somdej School in Ubon Ratchathani. Every year, her hometown is hit hard by devastating floods. She visits her students' homes and witnesses the hardships they endure. This constant struggle has left Rina wondering, "What can I do about the floods?" When Rina came across the UNICEF Volunteer Leader programme, she didn't hesitate to apply. She shared the flood-related challenges her community faces, providing UNICEF program officers with a glimpse into her reality.
After her conversation with the officers who oversee the Volunteer Leader Programme, Rina realized that one of her strengths was being a board game facilitator at her school. Board games didn't just provide players with a fun experience, they also fostered dialogue and imparted knowledge. Harnessing this strength, Rina created a board game called "Know the Flood." She translated the guidance from a Disaster Preparedness Handbook provided by the Department of Water Resources into game cards. These cards became tools to empower her community members – children, adults, and the elderly – with the knowledge and skills to handle floods, prepare and enhance the ability to adapt to the impact of climate change.
Rina designed, developed, and refined the game cards by having students in the club at Somdej School play the game multiple times. She then made adjustments and improvements to the game cards based on feedback received from the children. All these efforts were aimed at ensuring that the game cards could provide the most relevant experiences and knowledge aligned with the needs of those affected by floods.
Playing the card game " Know the Flood " is simple. Just choose one player to be the reader of the questions, and the other players compete to find the correct answer to that question as quickly as possible. If they do, they earn 1 point. The cards thus provide information such as how to safeguard a house during flooding, or how to ensure that drinking water is clean. At the end of a game, players are more knowledgeable about what to do before, during, and after a flood.
On Saturday, June 24, 2023. Rina took the game cards to the community, with 66 participants collectively practicing disaster resilience and tackling flood-related challenges together, just ahead of the new rainy season and its potential floods.
Nawaporn Wisitsakul, aged 65, has experienced many floods before. She played the game and shared her thoughts:
"Today, I've learnt a lot about addressing flooding issues. I've learned how to protect myself from venomous animals, and waterborne diseases including who to call for advice and which agencies can assist us when we need help urgently. Today's event was beneficial for me, and everyone who has experienced flooding can benefit from it. I hope this knowledge can be shared with more people in our community."
During the "Know the Flood" event, Rina also received support from students of Ubon Ratchathani University who volunteered with UNICEF, including Pongsathorn Kantawong, age 21. He said:
"From this event, we can extend its impact to classrooms. We can gather feedback from students and collaborate on designing strategies for when flooding happens—what we need and how we should work with the youth and UNICEF to convey these concerns to local authorities. This way, they can incorporate these ideas into flood management plans or solutions that cater to the needs of the youth who are actively participating."
Ultimately the "Know the Flood" activity that emerged from Rina's questioning and her efforts to address the issue has significantly enhanced the community's knowledge and understanding about dealing with flood-related challenges in Ubon Ratchathani Province. The experiences and information about flood preparedness in the community that Rina has gathered will be discussed with political science students from Ubon Ratchathani University . The students will use this information to make policy recommendations for local government, specifically the Warinchamrab Municipal Council, to improve and develop flood management in the province, with Rina consulting.
While nobody can prevent floods, this event proved that it is possible to build the knowledge and skills to respond to such situations before they occur. If families and children can "Know, Be Prepared, and Respond" when floods come, they are better placed to handle these difficult situations and recover rapidly.