A SIMPLE WAY TO INCREASE RESILIENCE TO EARTHQUAKES: TEACHING EARTHQUAKE-RESISTANT BUILDING TECHNIQUES TO RURAL BUILDERS IN GUATEMALA
I had the opportunity to teach earthquake-resistant building techniques in rural Guatemala, although I am neither a builder nor an engineer. My experience suggests that effective teaching, a skill that most geoscientists have and practice every day in their classrooms and workplaces, is the most critical tool for providing meaningful assistance. Expert knowledge, fluency in local languages, years of local experience and cultural insight are all useful but can be provided or developed through relationships with local partners.
I developed a 1-hour presentation using a laptop computer and small portable projector. I used photographs of local buildings and simple graphics with minimal captions to illustrate best/poor practices with yes/no labels and to demonstrate basic design principles. Breakable models allowed me to show how and why the techniques worked during ground shaking. Manuals with additional information and examples (in Spanish and copiously illustrated for a low-literacy audience) were provided to each attendee, for later reference and the possibility of propagating this information forward. Most remote villages had access to sufficient electricity to run a small projector, and there was little difficulty in finding partners capable of providing running translation into local language(s). The most challenging aspect of this project was developing a working relationship with a local organization willing and able to assist with scheduling, publicity, and generally connecting me with appropriate audiences.