The Consortium for Humanitarian Service and Education  (CHSE) based at Indian River State College (IRSC) in Ft. Pierce, FL held its annual ATLANTIC HOPE humanitarian simulation exercise March 7-10, 2013.   The event is the only U.S. based multi-day field simulation designed to prepare community college students for working in complex emergencies including conflict zones.   The program attracts students from both community college and 4 year college environments.

The exercise, coordinated by Dr. Paul Forage at IRSC, has been held since 2000.   The objective of the exercise is to “test the ability of disaster relief and humanitarian studies participants to apply what they have learned about the planning and conduct of relief missions in a full-scale simulated disaster environment.”  Increasingly  community colleges are emphasizing a range of international career tracks including humanitarian careers.

This year a total of 14 students from IRSC and Northern Oklahoma College (NOC) in Stillwater, OK participated in the event.  Students came from a range of disciplines including liberal studies, nursing, international studies, child development, and emergency management.

In reflecting on the experience, NOC student Tami Franklin commented: “The experience and knowledge gained through my participation in Atlantic Hope 2013 will be a stepping stone into the world of humanitarian work. The broad spectrum of opportunities within the humanitarian field was brought to my attention through our varied training, tasks, and missions. The knowledge gained will make it easier to decide which area is best suited for my personal skills and talents. My eyes were opened in so many ways and I am extremely grateful for this life changing opportunity.”

NOC nursing student Emily Edens believed: “The experience helped me grow and develop talents that I didn’t know that I had.  It put me in situations where I was very uncomfortable but afterwards I was able to remain calm because of the outstanding training provided.”

George Campos, majoring in international studies, commented:  “I was very humbled with what I experienced at Atlantic Hope. I initially was thinking that my military training as a combat medic would guide me through with ease, but I found this not to be the case.  I have a new respect for all those who dedicate their lives to serve in the field of humanitarian assistance and conflict negotiations. This was life changing for me and I feel it would be to anyone seeking to develop themselves in leadership, self-awareness and confidence, negotiation, humanitarian relief, and international development in general.”

This year for the first time CHSE will host a program for graduate students March 14-17, 2013.   Forage’s work has been supported by grants from the U.S. Institute of Peace.

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