Ukraine women study emergency preparation at OSU


CORVALLIS - Fourteen women from the Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod have arrived at Oregon State University for a four-week intensive training program that will help them prepare neighborhood networks for disaster relief.

Uzhgorod and Corvallis are Sister Cities and Corvallis Mayor Helen Berg will proclaim April 15-21 Sister City Week. Uzhgorod frequently battles severe flooding from the Uzh River, which runs through the city of 179,000 residents.

Though the Ukraine does have some formal emergency response services, Uzhgorod has lacked sufficient resources to handle large-scale events.

"Neighborhood-level networks can be a very effective means of providing assistance in natural disasters and other emergency events," said Marion McNamara of OSU's International Research and Development program. "The concept of volunteer organizations has not been a part of the Ukrainian culture."

The goal of the project is to help the visitors organize neighborhood networks, said Naomi Weidner of OSU's Department of Anthropology.

"Uzhgorod was spared from severe flooding this spring, though much of the Transcarpathia region experienced the worst flooding in history," Weidner said. "The city did experience devastating floods in 1998 and 1992."

While in Oregon, the women will visit the hospitals, relief agencies, fire departments, local schools and other organizations, and take part in a series of training exercises coordinated through the Benton County Emergency Services program and OSU.

On Monday, April 16, they will cook a Ukrainian dinner as a thank-you and fund-raiser for organizing supplies for their neighborhood networks. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Corvallis. For information on tickets, priced at $15, call 541-753-1979.

The project, called "Building Neighbor Networks in Ukraine," is funded by the U.S. Department of State. Last year, a delegation from OSU and Corvallis went to Uzhgorod to conduct a needs assessment of the relief services needed.