As I waited for my coffee on my morning Vancouver commute to the office I reflected on recent cold temperatures and the number of homeless people on the streets. Walking just a bit beyond Gastown, the number of semi permanent street side cardboard and umbrella ‘homes’ of the homeless made me think of the daunting challenges such a life brings. When I looked at the different faces I thought of their parents and families, of Christmas Past and of the huge struggles everyone faces from time to time.

Living so close to the cutting edge of life’s blade, whatever your edge is, can make us vulnerable. When an unexpected event happens, we can move unexpectedly closer to the sharp blade. The distance between society’s vulnerable and life’s edge is often so close that an unexpected event, such as a prolonged cold snap, or worse major disaster will have a devastating impact.

Arriving at work, the World Bank Group’s paper entitled “Unbreakable - Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters” landed in my inbox. Fresh from my morning coffee contemplations, I was struck by one of the points raised about half way through. The report was talking about the benefits of disaster risk reduction projects. As someone who has written many proposals on this subject I was fascinated to learn how the World Bank Group was pitching projects to ensure nothing happens!

Out of 117 countries involved in the research, the paper, from a financial organization, suggests losses to peoples well being following disaster are far higher than just asset losses. The impact of disasters on peoples well being is put as twice that of material losses. When you don’t have physical assets, perhaps you only have your own well being to lose, which is some of what I saw this morning.

Apparently, the impact of spending money targeted at protecting the assets of the top 80% of a population will yield only half the well being of what could be delivered by targeting the same money at the poor and vulnerable. Thats an interesting thought. If we want to reduce disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods, health and everything else, our emphasis should be to focus on the well being of the vulnerable.

As a sentimental close, and taking some seasonal license with this paper, if you are still shopping consider this, a gift of well being for the vulnerable will yield more than twice the benefit of a glitzy gift to a wealthy friend (#creatememoriesnotgarbage). Peoples well being is more important than any other treasure.