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To the Participants at the Natural Disaster Youth Summit

 The devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that has ravaged south and southeast Asia, bears witness to the importance of your conference.  Not only does it recognize the achievements to re-build families and communities after the Kobe and Bam earthquakes, it points to the need
to have procedures and structures in place for use in times of such crises. 

 

Mr. Edwin H. Gragert
Executive Director, iEARN-USA

  iEARN is committed to working with other organizations to create such structures and procedures so that the 1 million young people who are working together in our network on educational projects can immediately link with others in times of crisis. Unfortunately, the current human and property loss, brought to all of us by the visually striking images on news broadcasts and the immediacy of today ’s media, reminds us painfully that such devastation will happen again.

 Amidst the suffering, I remain hopeful.  My hope stems from three developments evident at this event here in Japan.   Firstly, I am encouraged by the outpouring of concern expressed around the world to build awareness of the causes of natural disasters, including those that result from human activities on the planet.   

 There appears to be a growing interest in what happens before, during and after these incidents on the part of young people around the world.   Importantly, this is resulting in expanded educational programs about natural disasters and how they are related in cause and effect around the
world, regardless of the continent on which they occur.

 This sense of a global perspective on natural disasters,seeing them as impacting humanity instead of one country ’s people is an important first step to finding global solutions and action.

 This leads me to my second reason for hope.  Young people around the world are moving beyond concern to a sincere desire to take action, to work together in solidarity with each other at times of natural disasters.  Youth,including those here in Japan and their colleagues in Iran, are planting trees, helping raise funds for disaster relief, sending items of clothing and pictures of friendship to affected youth—who will then be brought into the community of active youth in times of the
next crisis.   

 This is tremendously important and is a powerful statement to adults that young people can be
strong allies in the efforts to address and reduce the suffering involved in natural disasters.

Such youth action does not happen on its own, which points out a third reason for my hope:  the connective power of technology to mobilize attention and action in times of crisis.  We have seen this in iEARN, since 1989 when e-mail connected students in the United States with peers
in Russia to come together to assist in the relief after the devastating earthquake in Armenia that year.

 Together, they raised enough funds to enable the Red Cross to build a new children’s wing at a hospital in Yerevan.   Today, millions of young people are using the Internet, video-conferencing,
radio and other new connective technologies to inform themselves and each other and then to build a connected community of caring and involved global citizens.  Without these technologies, this would not be possible.  Without the technological expertise of young people, it would not
happen as quickly or as forcefully.

 I applaud the work that you have done and look to you and other youth people around the world for leadership in the 21st century as we come together to better understand and respond to natural disasters.

Ed Gragert
New York City
January 2005

 
 

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