New research examines resiliency in children and youth from 2013 Southern Alberta floods

June 22, 2015
Communications staff

When Southern Alberta was overwhelmed with flood waters as rivers and creeks breached their banks spilling into streets and homes in June, 2013, flood waters forced Melissa Palmer from her home and her community.

She was worried for her two children, both by the catastrophe that was unfolding around them, and the uncertainty of their futures. Drs. Robin Cox, Julie Drolet, and Caroline McDonald-Harker are hoping to better understand the resiliency of children in order to bring peace of mind to families like the Palmer’s and strengthen communities when disaster strikes.

A new research project supported by Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions (AIHS) at the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, and Royal Roads University aims to help children and youth during times of disaster. The Alberta Resilient Communities project (ARC) will work with children, youth and their communities to inform and strengthen child and youth mental health and enhance disaster preparedness, reduce risk and build resilience in Southern Alberta. ARC will help better understand the social, economic, health, cultural, spiritual and personal factors that contribute to child and youth resiliency while empowering them, their families and communities to build resiliency.

ARC community-based research will be undertaken in three ways. Royal Roads Prof. Robin Cox, from the School of Humanitarian Studies will work directly with youth to engage and empower them as resilience innovators and leaders in their community. In partnership with youth, the research team will engage in creative process based workshops and design thinking to explore disaster risk reduction and resilience, build leadership and research skills and innovate and implement resilience building strategies in their communities. Dr. Julie Drolet, from the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary, will look at key community influencers, such as schools, community organizations and social service agencies in children’s and youth’s lives. She wants to identify where current programs and services can be improved to meet the needs of communities during catastrophes. Dr. Caroline McDonald-Harker, from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Mount Royal University, will examine child-focused research activities. Working directly with school- aged children (ages five to 12 years), she will develop tools and resources that will both improve knowledge of resilience, as well as enhance recovery for children and their care givers.

“We are very aware that children and youth can effectively contribute to their own recovery and that of the people and places around them, but that they often lack the opportunities to do so,” notes Dr. Robin Cox. “Youth are uniquely positioned to contribute to disaster risk reduction and resilience as conduits of information to family and peers, as early adopters of new technology, and as current and future leaders in their communities. As part of the ARC project, we will partner with youth to enhance their leadership and research skills, and to support their capacity to innovate real-world resilience strategies in their communities."