Fall 2008

On the Ground in Asia

Kathryn Hawley

Program Director, Pacific Islands

Kathryn Hawley knows firsthand that emergencies and disasters are a part of everyday life in the Pacific. The region is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including earthquakes,volcanoes, cyclones, floods, droughts, and tsunamis. When disaster strikes, the geographic isolation of island communities makes assistance even more challenging.

As The Asia Foundation’s ProgramDirector, Hawley draws on her 35 years of experience living in the Pacific in her work to address the capacity and preparedness of Pacific Island nations. Hawley has worked in 14 Pacific Island countries over the past 13 years to help them take preventative, mitigation, and preparedness steps to reducing disaster risks and building self-reliance.

Participating countries have included Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Participants in Disaster Management training needed to use their new skills just this year. In January 2008, the Cook Islands experienced a period of intense tropical storms. Roads were closed and buildings sustained damage. Newly established Emergency Operation Centers sprung to action — evacuation sites were put on standby, updates were given to tourist hotels, and units coordinated possible responses. According to the Director of the National Disaster Management office, “Overall there was huge improvement…. Organizations knew what to do, and this was directly attributed to the training conducted through The Asia Foundation and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).”

Hawley’s work doesn’t end with the extensive Disaster Management program. She also manages projects focusing on violence against women, and over the years, she has worked on elections programs in Afghanistan, post-tsunami work in Aceh, Indonesia, and a disaster management project in China. Hawley says, “I believe if development work is done right, it can have a huge impact, leaving a lasting impression on those we work with. The work I have been associated with in the Pacific region makes a difference, and I am proud to be part of it.” Read more about The Asia Foundation’s programs in the Pacific Islands Nations.

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