Building future aid agency workers: Disaster Simulation Workshop Engages Teenagers at TED Pathfinder Camporee

Brussels, 1 August 2023: Over the last week from 24th to 31st July 2023, staff and volunteers of ADRA Europe, ADRA Slovenia, ADRA Hungary, ADRA Finland and ADRA Austria organized 7 memorable Disaster Simulation Workshops for more than 170 teenage and adult participants at the TED Pathfinder Camporee in Sopron, Hungary. The aim was, to educate and inspire young minds at this international gathering about ADRAs work, compassionate service, disaster response, teamwork, communication, and the various professions required in aid agencies.

Divided into four subgroups, the participants had the opportunity to experience a flood disaster scenario, leaving them with a new appreciation for the complexity and fast changing environment that characterizes the work of disaster responders.

Children acting as Headquarters, managing the disaster response.

Recreating a Disaster Setting:

The participants were immersed in a disaster setting which prompted them to think on their feet and make swift decisions to assist affected communities.

Divided into four teams, each team had a distinct role to play in the overall disaster response process:

  • ERT Headquarter was responsible for the overall coordination and project planning.
  • Communication & Fundraising was responsible to inform the public and current donors about ADRAs response, to raise donations (cash and in-kind) and respond to media requests.
  • Assessment team: reaching out to the affected community in another part of the camp ground, assessing their acute needs and responding to these, reporting information back to headquarter and communication teams and being involved in the rescue simulation of one person trapped under a collapsed roof.
  • Technical team, responsible to erect and furnish one tent as office, from which the headquarter and communication team could operate, and then build a shelter to host the simulation’s flood victims.

“Communication to Assessment team – do you hear me?” By collaborating closely and communicating via walkie-talkies throughout the exercise, the participants gained valuable insight into the importance of teamwork and communication during times of crisis.

Experiencing Time Pressure and other challenges

Time pressure is a reality in any disaster response operation, and the engaged participants pushed each other to provide information, prepare budgets for donors or collect urgently needed relief items – making sure, that all felt the intensity that accompanies such situations. The teams faced numerous challenges, needed to find appropriate resources or equipment, overcome language barriers and were faced with a number of “interruptions” by simulation leaders (such as the rescue of a trapped person or a high-level TV interview) that tested their ability to make quick decisions and to work also beyond their initially assigned tasks.

A Fun and Valuable Learning Opportunity:

During the debriefing, several adult participants, that had been peer-to-peer fundraisers for ADRA in the past, expressed their new respect and love for this work in real-life and how this exercise had broadened their understanding of ADRAs work. The teenagers were in particularly struck by the complexity of fast incoming tasks and constant change of environment and reflected on their teamworking skills. Aside from intense activity, they also had much fun when filming video interviews, or burst into laughter, once the young actors, representing flood victims, played their role all too well.

Inspiring Future Careers in Aid Agencies

The world and ADRA as Christian humanitarian organization need young people who are driven, compassionate, and ready to create positive change. Joining ADRA as staff means becoming part of a global network of professionals who are committed to improving lives and building a better future. The aim of our workshops was to plant a seed in the hearts and minds of our young participants and we would be excited to welcome some of them in the future as volunteers or staff in our teams across Europe and beyond.

PS: Are you interested in conducting such a simulation in your local pathfinder club or church? Get in touch with us, we are documenting the workshop and are happy to share it with you.