SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Hurricanes have always formed part of a Caribbean reality and because of this local knowledge systems remain critical for survival and help to build community resilience.
This narrative embraced by representatives of The St. Maarten Foundation for Psychologists and “Orthopedagogen” (SFPO) is further explained by the organization’s representatives.
Traditional knowledge systems are developed within a specific space, by a specific community, based on interactions and experiences with the natural environment. Over time Caribbean people have developed the necessary skills to survive a hurricane, while at the same time using local knowledge systems to improve natural disaster preparedness.
“When there is no electricity, running water or even cooking gas, we are forced to fall back on traditional knowledge for answers. But if we are unaware of what to do in extreme circumstances (like how to create a fire or how to make Johnny cakes) our dependency on external forces increases. It is therefore important for us to make a deliberate effort to (re) discover traditional methods of hurricane preparedness, survival and restoration,” say the representatives.
One practical way of doing so is by engaging in conversations with the elderly to learn from their past experiences of survival. Formerly, strong and positive connections to the local environment and to each other remained intact due to traditional knowledge systems. As a result, individuals within the community knew they would not have to face the challenges alone. This too, contributed to the development and maintenance of community resilience.
According to SFPO representatives, knowing what to do and how to do it when ‘modernity’ is temporarily placed on hold increases community resilience, which in turn, positively influences our mental, physical and emotional well- being. They also stress that a community that knows what to do in the face of adversity and how to adapt to the changing tide of nature is the epitome of resilience.