Disasters, Humanitarianism, and Inclusivity


In Episode 06, host Dr. Ritwik sits down with Michele Villariez, a DRM expert and a seasoned humanitarian worker with over 18 years of field experience working in disaster and conflict zones. As an inclusive humanitarian innovation specialist, she has collaborated with disaster affected populations, vulnerable communities, gender-based violence victims, and refugees to co-design solutions for pressing humanitarian challenges. She currently works for the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court.

Michele Villariez

Michelle shares her profound experiences working with these groups, and how they continually shape her perspectives on humanitarianism, inclusivity, and resilience. Her journey began with her volunteer efforts during the devastating Thailand tsunami of 2004 which profoundly shaped her career path. Raised in Bulacan, Philippines, an area prone to annual flooding and typhoons, Michele developed a deep understanding of disaster preparedness and response from a young age.

Michele’s early experiences led her to volunteer with organizations like the Red Cross and engage in social action initiatives during high school and college. She pursued a degree in development studies, despite initial skepticism from her parents, and embarked on a journey that would take her to disaster and conflict zones across various regions of the world.

As Michele delves into her professional experiences including her work with Syrian Refugees at camps in Jordon, she emphasizes the importance of inclusive program design, which involves collaborating closely with affected communities to co-create solutions tailored to their needs. She highlights the power of indigenous knowledge and local innovation citing examples such as a fishing community in the Philippines preserving mangrove forests to protect against typhoons and a Nepalese innovator repurposing shredded plastic bottles as insulation for homes.

Michele reflects on the cultural nuances she encountered during her work, noting differences in communication styles and attitudes toward criticism across various regions.

Michele further discusses the ongoing challenges experienced by people in conflict zones including the latest war in the Gaza Strip, highlighting the urgency of humanitarian aid and support for those affected. She acknowledges the challenges faced by communities living in constant fear of disasters and emphasizes the need for comprehensive disaster risk reduction plans to mitigate future crises.

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