You know that old cliché: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I recently saw evidence of this in spades when Hurricane Sandy not only hit the Northeast—but also hit the Save the Children headquarters and, what’s worse, many of our staff members’ homes. It’s fascinating to see how people react when their lives are upended by a disaster, especially when they spend so much of their own lives helping others though crises. So when calamity struck in their own backyard, I saw over and over again what my Save
The following blog first appeared
Atlantic City, New Jersey
November 13, 2012
The Superstorm’s force was like a 300 pound NFL linebacker
tackling a high school cheerleader. That’s when we called in our relief
lineup – a crew of Save the Children volunteers dedicated to helping kids
affected by natural disasters.
The first to arrive were teams from Church Communities
International. They literally did a lot of the heavy lifting. Hauling boxes of
kid-friendly supplies all over affected areas of New Jersey, they loaded boxes
of relief items such as baby shampoo, diapers, blankets, books – and footballs!
Kids in shelters lack healthy exercise and fun. That’s why a
key part of our work is the Child-Friendly Space program – a safe place where
kids can be kids. Our volunteers also helped staff the Child-Friendly Spaces.
These trained, caring adults create an environment where kids can work through
difficult emotions as a result of the storm and increase their ability
to “bounce back”.
Matthieu was one of the older kids in the Child-Friendly
Space. He picked up a football from the toy box and began tossing it like he
was looking for a pick-up game. That’s when a bunch of the volunteers had the
great idea to rally the kids for a game of catch. It went on for quite a while,
but the kids said the time flew by. “This was the best day ever,” said
Matthieu, out of breath from play.
Later that night, some of the volunteers were told they were
rotating out – a new crew was coming in to tackle the work. When he heard the
news he would be leaving, one young man who had been playing ball looked down
at the table. When I turned to see his face, he wiped away tears. Having felt
that way before, we all knew he was going to miss the wonderful kids.
I want to use this blog post to thank all of our volunteers,
truly some of the most valuable players in emergency response.
If you want to volunteer for Save the Children, please check
out our volunteer opportunities online.
Hopefully, Matthieu will soon be back to playing ball
in his own backyard. Kids like Matthieu need caring people to support Save the
Children’s long termresponse efforts.
Please give generously to our Hurricane Sandy Relief fund.
November 11, 2012
Hurricane Sandy took almost everything from Marisol. Fleeing her home with little more than clothes on her back, she waited out the storm at the safety of her Aunt’s house. Her mom, Rachel, stayed behind to protect their meager belongings from looters in a very rough neighborhood in New York.
Rachel had been told that they would be safe in their fourth floor apartment. But the winds and rain proved too much for their rundownbuilding.
The roof collapsed around her, destroying most of their belongings and killing Marisol’s little kitten.
I spoke with many other families like Mariol’swho lived in apartments that have been condemned due to storm damage. They have no place to go home to – crowded shelters are their only refuge until temporary housing programs get fully up and running.
It’s in these shelters that Save the Children offers our Child-Friendly Spaces program. It gives girls and boys a safe area where they can play, have fun and express themselves under the supervision of caring, trained adults. It helpskids build self-esteem, work through difficult emotions and increase their ability to “bounce back”.
Rachel was relieved to see Marisol having fun with the other children in our program. “I am just overwhelmed to see my daughter playing and happy again,” she said while choking back tears.
I told her, “It’s ok, we’ll get through this together”.
Hopefully, Marisol will feel safe and secure again soon. Kids like Marisol need caring people to support Save the Children’s response efforts. Please give generously to our Hurricane Sandy Relief fund.
Meherpur District, Bangladesh
November 8, 2012
There are around 15,000 sponsored children in Bangladesh. Recently a new initiative was introduced for 600 sponsored children from 70 villages in the Meherpur province to help them grow as leaders and responsible members of their society.
The children received training on important issues affecting them and other children. The training covered a wide array of topics, such as basic communication and facilitation, hygiene and nutrition, child marriage sexual abuse, child labor, drugs and corporal punishment. They also received orientation on sponsorship operations and programs.
All the children expressed what an amazing experience it was for them and how honored they felt to participate. They are now aware of their rights, needs and responsibilities and will transfer their knowledge to the children in their villages. They believe they will be able to act as change agents for all children in their villages. They also shared that they are now more valued by the adult members of their society.
In the villages the youth leaders are monitoring and helping with a variety of issues, like ensuring that children always wear shoes when going to the toilets and that they maintain good hygiene. They are also observing if children are being mistreated or receive unacceptable punishment in school or at home.
Through this initiative the children are helping Sponsorship Field Officers receive timely updates on children who are not attending school regularly, have stopped participating in the sponsorship program or have moved away. They also help collect drawings, letters and family updates for sponsors.
This all helps Save the Children run our programs more efficiently and successfully while achieving our goal of developing a child friendly world which prepares them as strong and important future leaders and protects them from all kinds of abuse.
Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.
After my visit to a Red Cross shelter in New Jersey yesterday, I am more convinced than ever that we must urgently do a better job protecting kids in natural disasters than what we have done so far.
Save the Children began emergency work in the US in a much bigger way after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, just over 7 years ago. I clearly remember the day of the storm when we made the decision to send a small team to Baton Rouge,
Atlantic City, New Jersey
November 5, 2012
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy with temperatures
dropping, Save the Children rushed to deliver blankets and other cold-weather
supplies to Hurricane Sandy survivors.
One of the children we’ve been helping is 4-year-old Didi. While Didi got an imaginary
“check-up” from her older cousin “Dr. Kelly” at our Child-Friendly Space,
other children needed real-life medical attention at the shelter. With everyone
staying in close quarters, exhausted from the upheaval and a nor’easter on the
way, conditions are primed for kids to catch colds – or worse.
To help keep children warm, we’re sending cozy onesies,
jammies, hats and mittens.
Save the Children is also delivering educational materials
to our Child-Friendly Spaces to help reinforce healthy hygiene, the best line
of defense against diseases. Things like hand-washing and eating healthy snacks
can help kids fight colds, and promotes healthy behaviors in the future.
What’s more, we’re providing parents with the supplies they
need to help keep kids clean and healthy, such as diapers, nutritious snacks
and hygiene supplies.
Didi will be able to go home to a safe, warm home soon. Kids like Didi need
caring people to support Save the Children’s response efforts. Please give
generously to our Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.
The shelter in the Atlantic City Convention Center shelter is a huge sprawling hall with a constant wave of people arriving and leaving in a regular ebb and flow each day. Some families have just arrived from other shelters, some go back to devastated houses, and some come back to stay for what might be weeks.
Many of those who come to shelters in New Jersey—like this one run by the Red Cross—are families who can least afford to lose a week’s wages, a refrigerator of food, or a room full of furniture, much less a house or apartment. They are working class or poor families, usually with kids. As is the case here in Atlantic City, kids make up at least 25% of the population in shelters in affected areas.
New Jersey, USA
November 4, 2012
Kelly at a Hurricane Sandy shelter in North Jersey, I thought I’d never see her
again as she got onto a bus headed back home. I was happy she’d be able to sleep
in her own bed. She’d hopefully find her home intact, including her beloved
stuffed monkey named Rosy who got left behind when her family was evacuated.
I was playing tea
party with some little girls in our Child-Friendly Space, when I heard a familiar
voice. It was Kelly! She called out to her little cousin Didi age 2, who was
delicately eating an imaginary cupcake at our party. Peals of delight filled my
ears, as they made that squealing noise in a register that only little girls
Kelly seemed in
good spirits, but my heart went out to her knowing that she would be staying in
a shelter once again. She told me that after they left the shelter where we
met, they tried to go home.
Their modest apartment was unharmed by the
storm, but the heat still wasn’t working. Kelly dashed through the
apartment to her closet, where she found Rosy! They tried to sleep in their own
beds, but it was just too cold. After the storm, the temperature dropped
dramatically — it was in the 30s with wicked winds. Her parents decided take
Kelly and her little brothers to an economy motel for the night and return to a
shelter until their heat comes back on. With a nor’easter coming, warmth is all
the more important.
Knowing Save the
Children would be at the shelter with toys, her mom, Natividad decided it would
be best to travel light and leave Rosy safe at home. Kelly was ok with that and
held tight to Didi.
Not soon after
she arrived, Kelly made fast friends with two other little girls. They had so
much energy to burn off having been cooped up in shelters for nearly a week.
With all four of us holding hands, we went skipping around the shelter singing
“We’re Off to See the Wizard”. There really is no place like home, but we're
thankful we can help kids make the best of it while they're here at the
Kids like Kelly
and Didi need caring people to support Save the Children’s response efforts.
Please give generously to our Hurricane Sandy Relief fund.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
November 4, 2012
Things change. Everything
from changes in the weather to the addition or loss of a family member, we’ve
all experienced how changes both big and small canshape our lives.
Emergency situations also change, frequently and often with
little advance warning.In the past two days, our Hurricane Sandy response team
has seen many of the children and families residing in New Jersey and New York community
shelterson the move again. They’re gathering the few belongings they can carry
on their backsand loading packed busesen route to longer-term mega shelters.
This progression is not unusual, as it means that the
families are a step closer to returning home. But more moving means more change
for kids. And many changes, especially in an unfamiliar situation, can take a
toll on children, who rely on the familiar to feel safe and secure.
Save the Children wants to help provide children with a
sense of familiarity through structuredactivities in our Child-Friendly Spaces,
and when the kids move, we move with them.
Yesterday, we met Dayvon, an exuberant 6-year-old who sang
while he colored pictures of his friends on a large banner in our Child-Friendly
Space in northern New Jersey. Although
he made new friends at the shelter, he sorely missed his friends from home
saying, “I really hope that they are okay. I don’t know where they are.”
During our scheduled Child-Friendly Space time, Dayvon’s
shelter got the call to close down and transport its residents to a larger
shelter where the populations of a dozen smaller shelters would be
consolidated. When Dayvon’s mom returned to space to tell him it was time to
leave, Dayvon started to cry. He didn’t want to move again, he didn’t want to
leave his new friends and the familiar faces of the Save the Children staff. Eventually, his mom was able to calm him and
we gave him the banner the children had colored together. Before he walked out the door, he peeked over
his shoulder and said “see you later,” which melted our hearts, as we didn’t
know where Dayvon and his mother were headed,or if we would see him later.
Our team quickly identified the new shelter sites and
mobilized our staff to set up Child-Friendly Spaces in the new locations. We drove 2-3 hours, worked with shelter
management and by the time we were carrying activity kits in the door, a dozen
buses were offloading and in the shuffle
we heard a cheerful , “Hey!” It was Dayvon and his mother, Dayvon still
clinging to the poster we had made together hundreds of miles and several hours
That moment was truly the highlight of Save the Children’s
response thus far. Seeing Dayvon’s beaming, toothy smile and knowing that we’re
helping give these kids a sense of consistency and normalcy despite their constantly
changing circumstances. In the new shelter we’ve seen many of the children we
worked with previously at smaller shelters and, for each one of the kids, it’s
a happy reunion. And that’s what it’s
all about — not just being there when the disaster hits, but staying there and
ensuring children and families have the resources they need to cope with
disaster and rebuild their lives.
There are still
thousands of families living in shelters unable to storm-ravaged home and we
plan to stick with them, even when the media cameras have left and public
attention is diverted.Thank you for your support and following us through the
Hurricane Sandy response.
Please give generously to our Hurricane Sandy Relief fund or Text
HURRICANE to 20222 to donate $10 to Hurricane Sandy Relief from your
mobile phone. When you receive a text message, reply YES. (Standard text
messaging rates apply.) Read the fine print.