An Exploration of Educators’ Roles for Building Social Resilience to Natural Disasters in Small Island Developing States
Small island developing states (SIDS) are on the very frontlines of climate change (UNDP, 2017). Increasing attention on the unique social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities SIDS face has led to the discussion of the overall resilience of this population. Specifically, post-disaster studies of resilience carried out on SIDS have pointed to social resilience and education as two primary indicators of the overall resilience of these vulnerable communities (Aldrich, 2012; Muttarak & Lutz, 2014); yet social aspects of resilience related to SIDS have been underexplored, in comparison to ecological and economic themes (Berkes & Ross, 2013). Thus, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the personal and professional lived-natural disaster experiences of SIDS residents who are educators in order to understand their role in building social resilience within their community. In-depth interviews were conducted with educators employed at public and private schools in the United States Virgin Islands. The findings indicate that residents who are educators conceptualized resilience according to the following themes and sub-themes: (1) Social Process which involves Social Recovery and Community Alliances to ‘bounce back’ to an undefined level of normalcy and (2) Embodied Identity which was described in terms of Community Personifications of resilience as a trait in general citizens and educators. Participants identified internal and external resources as influential in how residents responded to natural disasters, by so doing, significantly contributing to positive post-disaster outcomes; these resources are referred to in the literature as protective factors (Rutter, 1985). The findings also demonstrate that educators had both a personal and professional responsibility to help their community contend with disasters, and this outcome is best explicated through the concept of protective factors. The research findings are significant because they: (1) contribute to the limited body of literature on social resilience in small island developing states, (2) demonstrate the importance of subjective perspectives in the development of disaster preparedness and management strategies for climate-vulnerable island populations, and (3) indicate a need for future research to use terminology which acknowledges the many ways in which disaster-prone communities have historically demonstrated and/or embodied resilience.