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1999 NCC News Archives

CWS Workshop Prepares Staff Worldwide to Confront Dangers

MAY 12, 1999, NEW YORK -- Terrorism, bomb attacks, banditry, and civil war: in today's world such dangers can occur anywhere. Even more so in places where human wants, misery and frustration are high, and therefore the risk of desperate and lawless acts are high, without effective civil protection. Yet these are the places where Church World Service staff persons live and provide humanitarian assistance.

"There is no way to predict what danger will face us today or tomorrow," stated CWS Pakistan Director, Marvin Parvez. "The only thing we can predict for certain is that there indeed will be dangers of some sort. While we cannot predict their nature, we can be better prepared for whatever may come."

To minimize the likelihood of loss of life, limb, and property, and to protect the precious resources CWS donors intend for people in need in the developing world, CWS May 5-8 completed the first-ever training workshop on "Safety in Insecure Environments" to be offered in a third-world country as a service to humanitarian aid organizations as well as to its own staff.

Ten other organizations--each with its own life-saving, health or human-development agenda-- joined CWS in a mountain retreat setting near Islamabad, Pakistan, for four days of theory and practice, drills and exercises. Topics covered included risk assessment, security planning, radio and telecommunication protocols, personal safety, survival skills, defense against car-jacking and kidnapping, evacuation planning, and communication skills to de-escalate conflict. The 24 participants included representatives from small community-based organizations serving refugees and rural communities in neighboring Afghanistan under Taliban influence.

The training event's importance stems from its "pilot" status as the first in a series of similar workshops to be offered for CWS program staff and colleague agencies around the world. Terry Wesbrock and Tina Wesbrock, workshop leaders, pointed out the special challenge and opportunity of security training in the CWS context.

"Foreign agencies in international settings usually concern themselves only with the safety of their own expatriate staff and equipment, said the Wesbrocks, who live near Phoenix, Ariz. "Church World Service, in contrast, identifies and integrates itself so completely with its local partners that the security and well-being of the whole community must become the object of concern in training exercises." The Wesbrocks have served as CWS consultants for five years in the area of disaster preparedness training. They have adapted their strong background in high-tech police and security work in the US to an "appropriate technology" approach to security in less-developed countries.

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