Boonpeng, 75, Thailand

Seventy-five-year-old Boonpeng has spent his whole life in the village of Fang in Thailand’s Pong Nam Ron sub-district. He grew up and went to school there, and eventually went to work in the fields growing crops. After retiring at the age of 65, he became leader of the older people’s association for the sub-district.

Boonpeng, 75, carries out key DRR work in Thailand
(c) Robin Wyatt/HelpAge International

On 24 September 2011, a flood hit Boonpeng’s village Two people were killed, 58 houses were destroyed and a bridge collapsed. It was then that he got involved in disaster risk reduction, as he explained:

“In our community we have natural disasters every year, small floods and bush fires, but in 2011 we had a really bad flood and afterwards we realised we needed to do something.

“I started to think that we needed to warn people in advance. We never thought that a flood like that would happen. We haven’t had a flood like that in over 100 years.”

He worked to bring the community together, get the local authority to see the value in DRR and then develop a realistic and effective plan.

Boonpeng is devoted to his service
(c) Robin Wyatt/HelpAge International

Each step of his strategy worked to reduce the risk when future floods hit, beginning with the building of small dams to reduce the strength of the current. These same dams would also provide a water reserve during drought.

Trees were planted to protect the river bank and children were taught to understand the river and the warning signs it gives if a flood is imminent.

“Ten villages now have DRR plans. All of these activities have made the community feel safer,” said Boonpeng.

This is only the beginning for DRR work in Pong Nam Ron. The first three-year plan is now complete and another three-year plan will expand on this work, using the learnings from this first phase.

With funding from the local government, they have already begun to practise how to evacuate bedridden older people, pregnant women and children, and will share this learning with all villages in the area.

Boonpeng speaks with a bedridden older person
(c) Robin Wyatt/HelpAge International

Boonpeng sees older people as integral to DRR planning and he aims to increase the number involved through his older people’s association.

“We are trying to recruit more older people to join the older people’s associations in the sub-district so we can do more,” he said.

“It is important that older people are involved in DRR work because we are the ones that spend a lot of time in the village. Younger people are busy with their lives and leave for work, so we are the ones who can warn the community.”

Boonpeng’s DRR efforts have been well-recognised in his country. He has been invited to speak at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation in Bangkok to tell them what they are doing in their community.

“I think if we can use the knowledge of older people in DRR work in Thailand, we wouldn’t have to worry about natural disasters,” he concluded.

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