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Women of Courage: Indian Red Cross volunteer helps with disaster preparedness?


She has seen it all: death, misery and pain that recurring cyclones have brought to the people living along the coast, but still has the strength and courage to help others. Circumstances have failed to dampen the spirits of Padmabati Nayak, a 56-year-old Red Cross women volunteer from (Kantipur). With her will and determination she has aptly proved that where there is a will there is a way.


She has been a keen grass root volunteer for the Indian Red Cross Orissa state branch mobilizing local communities to get involved with ODMP. She has extensively campaigned in the coastal villages of Bhadrak highlighting the benefits of live saving structure and community ownership. Participation of large numbers of women from villages in ODMP II has been possible because of her efforts. In time of crisis, she has dexterously displayed her leadership qualities and has come up with amicable solutions time and again. Construction of Uhad shelter under ODMP Phase II has been one of her key achievement as a Red Cross volunteer. At her age she is still willing to do more so that her next generation doesn't have to face the agony and pain of death.


Being a woman and hailing from a remote village, things have not been easy for her but still she has imbued her mission with enthusiasm. Recognizing her efforts in the field she has been awarded Red Cross volunteer award by the District Collector for her efforts in creating awareness on the issue of disaster management in Bhadrak District of Orissa.


Joining Red Cross in 2002 as a volunteer, she has won many admirers and has become the voice of the vulnerable in the area. Asked on how she feels after winning the award, she replies: “ananda” (happiness). Further, she says that she is happy that now the community is more aware of impending dangers of cyclones and that future generation will have a safer life.


Ms. Nayak narrating her experiences she explained how in past cyclones had wreaked havoc year after year and people in the coastal area had suffered both financially and emotionally. “So I decided to meet the district Red Cross field staff and sought their help” she said. Adding further she avers, “I had heard from people in the nearby villages that Red Cross volunteer distributes family kits and food items whenever there is a disaster”.


Mrutyunjaya, field coordinator, Bhadrak reports that he is impressed with Padmabati's passion to change things around her. He explains that at around the same time, the Orissa Disaster Mitigation programme ODMP-II planning and vulnerability study was on. So long after deliberations and demand from the community, Uhad was chosen as one of the sites for the construction of multipurpose cyclone shelter.

The Orissa Disaster Mitigation program (ODMP) was jointly conceived by the German government, the German Red Cross and the Indian Red Cross Society Orissa state branch. After the completion of construction of a cyclone shelter in January 2005 it was handed over to the Shelter and Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) constituted from among the villagers in accordance with the memorandum of understanding (MOU) among the IRCS-OSB,IRCS district branch, Balasore, SDMC and managing committee of the school. The sole aim of the program was to reduce the impact of cyclone disasters along the coast by building a series of multipurpose cyclone shelters in selected locations.


Highlighting the benefits of the multipurpose shelter the Secretary, SDMC, Uhad Basudev Mallick, said that the cyclone shelter is being utilized for number of community activities such as weddings, health awareness camps and is also used as a school in normal times. The maintenance of the cyclone shelter is the duty of the SDMC and funds are raised by the committee itself. 


Balakrishna Nayak, Treasurer, SDMC, Uhad informed that they have been receiving voluntary contributions from the villagers and have so far collected Rs 42,000 (approx. CHF 1200) and maintain a bank passbook for the accounts. He proudly mentioned that Uhad had been adjudged 2nd best managed cyclone shelters in Orissa and that Chief Minister on behalf of Orissa state disaster mitigation authority (OSDMA) awarded the prize which included a cash reward of  Rs 15000/-, a certificate and shield.


Antony Gnanamuthu, DP-Delegate, German Red Cross informed that Orissa Disaster Mitigation Programme was jointly conceived by Indian Red Cross Society, Orissa State Branch, Co-financed by Federal Republic of Germany through KFW and the German Red Cross. Federation played the coordination role between RC Societies and also supported the construction of 10 cyclone shelters in ODMP-Phase I (1995- 2002), 23 multipurpose cyclone shelters were constructed in the most cyclone prone villages in six coastal districts of Orissa. A total of 97 villages, with population of approx 50,000 benefited from the disaster preparedness and management activities in Phase I.


After success of ODMP phase I, German Red Cross and KfW agreed to support ODMP- II in January 2003. In phase-II Federation has offered technical support and knowledge sharing, the planning session for ODMP-II, 2006 was facilitated by Mohamed Babiker, DM delegate.


It was decided that 37 more multipurpose cyclone shelters will be constructed for a population of 64,183 regrouped in 10,435 families in 73 villages in the 3 most affected districts of Bhadrak, Kendrapara and Balasore.


The undertaking of this program by IRCS/OSB has been a pioneering venture in terms of initiating strategic thinking and the mitigation of disasters by providing life saving structures and imparting training on community based approach to disaster preparedness in Orissa.
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