Day 3 “Identifying the Problem (Sort Of), Considering the Solution” – By Javin


“Systems are very chaotic,” explained Solomon after we did an activity that connected theater, conscious movement, and systems of power in a way that reflected many of the power structures we live under today. All of us gathered together in an intermingled, multi-grade level clump with Louis in the center as we moved based on how our “leader” guided us with their hands. Eventually, with more than 20 people attempting to both respond to the nonverbal commands issued by their leader and dish out their own, the structure collapsed. Everyone was so involved in their own space that they lost sight of the group as a whole. It’s easy to lose the forest for the trees, so to speak. As we debriefed on our activity and how it related to systems of power, my mind kept drifting to our earlier discussion with Beth, our presenter from Mercy Corps, concerning our project. After we learned about Mercy Corps and its goals, we finally started digging into the meat of our project with Beth. We learned that our central goal is to provide youth with the necessary tools to prepare them for disaster. Beth told us that we needed to identify where unawareness, apathy, or a potential myriad of other problems might exist among youth in regards to disaster awareness and resilience. During our discussions, a number of us asked Beth if she had identified where our project might lead in the short term. She explained that the results of our project would be largely based on two factors: the problems we could identify and the capacity for our tools to bolster the resilience of our communities in the face of disaster. Our specific assignment is unique, however, for the same reason that our activity was impactful: we need to engage youth—not all citizens, not adults, but youth—in Portland so that they may have a voice in discussions about disaster awareness, and so that they may have the power to sustain their communities in the wake of a disaster. In this sense, we have to tackle both the forest and the trees. We have to consider both the specific means to remedy the problems relating to youth disaster preparedness, and how we can use this project as a starting block to encourage greater youth involvement in our communities. That’s why our project in particular is amazing. We are not only thinking about the short-term benefits of our work with Mercy Corps, but we are also thinking about how to facilitate youth change making in Portland. That’s why PLACE is so awesome, and I’m extremely excited to see what we can accomplish as we delve further into our project.


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