Being there, staying there


StevewellsSteve Wells,
– Emergencies Logistics Manager

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
before.

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.