Responding to the Oklahoma Tornadoes







Tracy - headshot - June 2010 - croppedTracy Geoghegan, Save the Children Staff

Moore, Oklahoma

May 23, 2013


I’ve been here
since the day after the monster tornado devastated many parts of this city. Hundreds
of families are homeless and thousands are in need. I’ve been visiting the
shelters talking with parents and children who have lost everything.

“I feel like I just
came out of a daze and realized I’m homeless,” a mom named Kristi told me.
The tornado collapsed the roof to Kristi’s apartment building, and then it
poured the next day. Her family has lost everything. “So many things go
through your mind. You reach for a toothbrush and you don’t have it. You reach
for a comb and you don’t have it. You think, how am I going to pay the bills?
How am I going to get mail? There’s nothing left.”
Oklahoma_Tornado_Justin_Clemons_Getty_Images
Oklahoma Tornado Photo Credit: Justin Clemons/Getty Images for Save the Children

Kristi’s 3-year-old
daughter Peyten misses her stuffed rabbit. “I wish I could go home,” she
said.

“She doesn’t have
anything to play with,” says her mom.

Peyten’s 13-year-old brother
Jhaunel likes to play video games and go outside and play basketball. He can’t do
those things now because he lost his games and he doesn’t have a ball.

People here
are amazingly strong and positive despite all they’ve been through. I’ve seen
countless families whose homes were destroyed and who are facing futures full
of uncertainty. They say they’re just grateful to be alive. They don’t cry.
They rarely complain. But one thing I hear repeatedly from parents is that
their kids don’t have enough to do – they need activities to keep them busy and
active.

The Save the
Children team here has responded to every major disaster since Hurricane Katrina.
Most recently we have been helping families affected by Hurricane Sandy and the
horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Our experts
know that what children need most after their lives have been upended is a
return to normalcy.

Today we’ll
set up our first “child-friendly space” in a shelter here. This will be an
oasis of calm and fun activities for the children. It’ll also give overstressed
parents a break so they can start putting their lives back together. Our staff
will use play activities to help the children heal their emotional wounds. When
children have been through a traumatic experience, we know it’s very important to
give them a way to express what’s inside them. It may be fear. It may be anger.
Every child is different, but they all need to play and laugh again in a safe
environment. This will be an important first step for the children of Moore,
and we are eager to provide this for every child in Moore who needs help on the
road to recovery.

Please support our work to help children and the community impacted by the tornado. Click here to donate online or text TWISTER to 20222 to donate $10 to help the response effort. Standard rates apply.

 

Mobile Giving Details: The Fine Print

Msg and Data Rates May Apply. A one-time donation of $10.00 will be
added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance.
All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are
billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is
available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of
Save the Children by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the
terms found at www.hmgf.org/t.
Messaging and Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by
texting STOP to short code 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help.

In Evacuation Center, Young Mother Worries about Her Baby’s Health

Awander Andrew Wander, Save the Children Media Manager

Minimisanriku, Japan

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


After 10 days living in the evacuation center, with little hygiene and few supplies, Michiko Takahashi worries about the health of her 1-year-old baby girl, Mion. I transcribed her story with the assistance of a translator. 

“On the day of the earthquake, I had been at the doctor with my daughter. I’d just returned home and was changing her diaper when the earthquake struck.

“The house was really shaking hard, and I thought it would be safer outside. Normally I’d have stayed inside, because that’s what we’re taught to do, but the ground was shaking so hard that I thought I’d be safer outside. So I ran out with the baby, without even time to put on a new diaper. 

IMG_7247 Michiko, 22, holds her daughter Mion, 1, in the evacuation center they have lived in since being made homeless by a tsunami in Minimisanriku.
Photo Credit: Andrew Wander – Save the Children

“I was about to go back into the house to get some things, when I heard the tsunami siren ringing. My mother shouted at me not to go into the house, and we started running to higher ground. 

“I now know that my house was completely destroyed, and we’ve lost everything.

I have only the clothes I was wearing, but Mion was given some baby clothes yesterday.

“Life in evacuation center is very hard. We’ve been here for 10 days, and I’m very concerned about my baby’s health. For the first nine days, we had no hygiene supplies given to us at all. Yesterday, we got three baby wipes (not packets, but individual sheets) and a couple of cans of milk.

There’s nothing to sterilize the baby’s bottle with, and I haven’t washed my hands for days. I tried to go to the city to buy some supplies, but there is nothing in the shops. 

"I’m very worried about my daughter, especially because she suffers from poor health. Even before the disaster, she’d been going to the hospital twice a month, and there’s no telling when we’re going to be able to go again.

“Mion is also very shy, and it’s really upsetting her living here, with so many people around all the time. We have no idea when we will leave here, or where we will go. Everything has changed.

_______________________

Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

His Sister Lost to the Tsunami, Boy Clings to His Mother, Longing for a Place to Call Home

Iwoolverton Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager

Ishinomaki, Japan

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Seina, 9, shelters with his mother, Yuriko, in the sports hall of a junior high school not far from Ishinomaki, where up to 15,000 people died. Sadly, his older sister is among the dead, washed away by the tsunami.   

Seina has been living at this evacuation center for nine days, and really wants to go home. “I sleep here on a mattress inside this hall. My older sister has been lost to the tsunami. Now it’s just me and mom left,” Seina says, wiping tears from his eyes. 

Yuriko_Seina_Ishinomaki_JapanSeina and his mother Yuriko at the evacuation center where they have been living since the tsunami
Photo Credit: Ian Woolverton – Save the Children

I really want to go home. In here, I play cards and read books with other children, but I would really like to play computer games.” But Seina cannot go home, or play his computer games. His home, and everything in it, was destroyed by the tsunami.

The one thing I’m really worried about,” Seina says, “is what’s going to happen to us, and can we get enough money together to have a new house and have a life. The biggest thing that we want, and the biggest thing that we need, is to have a house and to live safe.” 

Apart from wanting a place to call home, Seina would like to have a bath. “We have water, but we cannot have a bath. I really would like a bath.” 

With nowhere else to go, Seina and his mother Yuriko will have to spend weeks in the evacuation center. Despite the dreadful events in his life, Seina is grateful for one thing. “I feel very safe being with my mom. I am really glad that she is here with me.”

_______________________

Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

Taking Shelter after the Tsunami

Ishinomaki, Japan

Friday, March 18, 2011


Karen, age 6, huddles together with her family in a classroom at a primary school in Ishinomaki, Japan. They have only a few blankets and a small kerosene stove for warmth. “We have been here since Friday. It’s cold and I want a bath,” says Karen.

Karen’s father, Koichi, explained that the family took shelter in the classroom when the tsunami destroyed their home. “The whole house is a mess. All dishes are broken. Everything around the house is flooded.”

Ishinomaki_012

Photo by Jensen Walker/Getty Images for Save the Children

Karen has not seen her house since the tsunami. Her mother says, “I don’t want to show my children what has happened to our home. I am afraid of how they might feel.”

All Karen wants is a chance to go home and see her friends again. “I miss my home and I miss my friends, she says. Her brother, Asato, age 8, also wants to go home. “I want to play my games, but maybe I won’t be able to anymore,” he says with a sigh.

Koichi and his wife Rumi find it difficult to keep their children occupied all day long in the small classroom, so they sometimes venture outside for a walk. “We have to get out of the classroom, but it is very cold outside and it is snowing a lot."

_______________________

Learn more about our recovery response to the earthquake in Japan.

Help Us Respond to the Japan Earthquake Recovery. Please Donate Now.

 

Ambitious Goals Six Months After Pakistan’s Devastating Floods

Alex gray

Alex Grey, Deputy Team Leader, Save the Children – Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

Friday, January 28, 2011



Six months after the severe floods devastated the whole of Pakistan from the north to the south, an area greater that Great Britain, the crisis for Pakistan’s children is far from over. Cases of disease and malnutrition are increasing; millions are without adequate clothing and shelter during the freezing cold winter nights and in the worst-hit region, the southern province of Sindh, large areas still remain underwater. Many farmers will not be able to plant winter crops, meaning their livelihoods and access to food in the coming months and years is severely affected. Government officials say some of the worst-affected areas could take up to six months to dryout.

I recently arrived in Pakistan to take over as the deputy team leader for Save the Children’s flood emergency response. I decided to take the role after visiting in October, almost three months on from the floods, when I saw what a massive crisis this was (something that did not come across in the global media the same way that the Haiti earthquake crisis had earlier in the year). I had recently returned from Haiti, which was hit by the astonishingly devastating earthquake in January earlier that year, and I had not expected to land in Pakistan and see a disaster on the scale of which I did. After spending two weeks with the extremely hard working and dedicated team here in Pakistan who launched and were in the middle of a massive (and somewhat successful from Save the Children’s part) response, and after being confronted with such a massive crisis on the ground and seeing the dire need here in Pakistan, I knew I wanted to come back and work here.

Having just arrived into my new role, and having went into the field and spent two weeks in Punjab and in Sindh, the worst hit by the floods, I realize there is still a massive amount to do to restore the lives of the flood affected communities, and I worry that things will not improve in Pakistan for a very long time. I say this, because I have sat and chatted with children in our temporary learning centres and child friendly spaces (huge tents that we constructed to replace damaged schools where kids come together, learn and play in a safe environment) and heard from them how, that even when the school building was there before the floods, they had not attended school in two years because the government-paid teachers had not come to teach them. If this was the case before the floods, I fear what the future will look like for these children. That’s why Save the Children has ambitious aims.

During my first two weeks in the field, I spent a lot of time in flood affected communities with children and parents hearing their stories about what happened during the floods, in the immediate aftermath and listening to and observing their needs now, 6 months on. One of the most pressing and immediate needs that children and parents alike conveyed to me time and again was still shelter, warm clothing and blankets. It’s warm and sunny in the days, but bitterly cold in the evenings – I have experienced it myself but nothing compared to what the flood affected communities here have to endure. The majority of children (and parents) I spent time with have one set of clothes, thin as they were wearing them in the summer, and the rest of their belongings (clothes, blankets, furniture) were washed away in the floods, often along with their houses. Some are now living in tents, some are building back mud houses themselves, which will more than likely only be washed away in any future floods, some are building temporary shelters (with the help of Save the Children and other actors), but some are still living under tarpaulins without blankets and warm clothing. Save the Children has been providing shelter,blankets and winter clothing and is still distributing these life-saving relief items but it is still not enough despite the massive scale and number of beneficiaries we have reached.

Another major concern is with health and nutrition. I visited a stabilization centre run by Save the Children in Shikarpur in Sindh, where severely malnourished children were referred to by our mobile and static health and nutrition teams in the field. I met with four mothers and their severely malnourished children and was moved to tears to see a young boy almost 2-years-old who was so malnourished that he looked only 5-months-old. Another boy could not stop crying, but no sound was coming from him because he was so malnourished that he didn’t have the energy to make a sound. I could see the pain in his eyes and in his face, and then I spoke to the mothers of these poor children, who were largely malnourished themselves, and heard their stories and of the pain that they felt because they did not have the means provide food and nourishment for their own children.

I thought of what that must feel like for a parent, to not be able to provide for yourself and for your children, and the indignity of it. Again, I felt my eyes welling up. The positive thing about the experience is that all these children who I spent time with were going to live because of the intervention of Save the Children and our wonderful staff who go out to the communities and mobilize them and work hand-in-hand to identify and address their immediate needs. In addition, the mothers’ details were taken and our livelihoods program will ensure that they will receive a cash grant which will hopefully see that their family do not go short of food and survive until the worst of this crisis is over. That day spent in the hospital with the malnourished children, their mothers and our dedicated staff of doctors made me realize how important it is for the government, donors and international community to keep responding as we move into the“recovery phase”, and we are all working hard and hoping that we can continue to build back better these communities in the months and years ahead.

As we look forward at our recovery strategy I am asking myself what we can do to improve the lives of children in Pakistan in the future. It’s what everyone is talking about 6 months on from the floods. However my first impressions and observations after spending two weeks in the field is that it’s hard, even impossible, especially for the flood affected communities in Pakistan, to think about or focus on the future when there is still so many basic immediate needs that have yet to be met.

We have had a great response so far and I am so proud of the 2,000 amazing and dedicated staff here working 7 days a week who have been distributing relief items, providing shelter and protection and safe spaces for children ensuring their health needs are met and that their education continues.The work here is far from done and it will take a very long time for Pakistan to recover, but when I visit a hospital and speak to a mother whose young boy’s life has been saved due to our good work, I am inspired, thankful and hopeful for the future of the children whose lives were (and are) at risk after the floods six months ago.

______________

Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan 

 Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.

Sajjad’s New Home

Friday, August 13, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

Sajjad desk  Sajjad, 14, lives in the suburb of Jail in the city of Bahrain, Swat. Jail is an urban locality of more than 50 households and lies on the banks of the River Swat. Besides residential houses, it is full of commercial plazas, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses catering to tourists from all over Pakistan. Sajjad is the eldest of five siblings and studies in Class 7 at Swat Education Complex, a private school in Bahrain.   

Sajjad's father works as a school teacher and owns an apple farm near River Swat. He wishes Sajjad to excel in his education and study in a university.  

A year ago, Sajjad’s family faced great hardship when they were displaced from their homes by the conflict between the Pakistan army and the Taliban in Swat. Sajjad’s father could not earn a single rupee for months since schools were closed and the apple farm stagnated in his absence. However, they had quickly rejuvenated their lives after the conflict ceased.  

On Wednesday, July 28, 2010, unprecedented monsoon rains caused flash floods in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Swat. Areas bordering the River Swat were hit with vast torrents of floodwaters, causing widespread destruction of life and property. Bahrain was one of the worst affected cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – entire streets and hamlets were washed away within 24 hours. The suburb of Jail was terribly devastated by the watery onslaught.  

Sajjad signing up  “It had been raining for two days when we were told that Jail was surrounded by water,” recounted Sajjad. “Our neighbors were hastily running uphill. We collected all our precious goods and moved into an uncle’s house in a safer area of Bahrain. Later that day we found that our house had been destroyed by the flooded river.”  

The next morning, Sajjad’s father was shocked to see his entire apple farm ruined by murky floodwater. Since then, he has fallen ill and remains depressed throughout the day.   

Sajjad said he lost all his books, clothes and playing equipment. With the efforts of notable community members, food rations are being distributed in Bahrain but they are not enough for Sajjad and his host uncle’s families. 

“I do not know when we will ever have a place of our own,” said Sajjad.  

Save the Children began assisting flood survivors immediately after the rains ceased in Swat. Separate teams assessed damage and identified the neediest families in the worst-affected areas including Bahrain. Save the Children first selected families who had lost their homes to receive tents with bamboo and a shelter kit for setting up temporary housing structures. Since they had lost their home, Sajjad’s family received shelter support.   

Sajjad bucket  Accompanied by his uncle, Sajjad traveled for five hours to reach Save the Children’s distribution center. They were among the first in line to receive the promised tent, bamboo, buckets, water containers and other shelter items. His family was eagerly awaiting his return knowing that they could then move into their own space and begin rebuilding their lives.  

An excited Sajjad said, “I know these things will not replace my home but at least it will be my family’s first step toward a new home.”          



Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.

New Hope for Qamar

Thursday, August 12, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

QamarQamar, 13, lives in the village of Girlagan in UC Bahrain, Swat. Girlagan has 200 households and is situated on the banks of River Swat near the city of Bahrain, a famous tourist destination in Pakistan. Qamar has four brothers and three younger sisters and they all attend public government schools in Girlagan. Qamar is studying in Class 6 and loves to play cricket.  

Qamar’s father is unemployed but his eldest brother runs a small shop in Quetta city to support the family. They live in a small two-room mud house reinforced with wooden beams since they cannot afford to build a brick and steel structure.   On Wednesday, July 28, 2010, unprecedented monsoon rains caused flash floods in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Swat. Areas bordering the River Swat were hit with vast torrents of the flood waters, causing widespread destruction of life and property. Due to its location, the village of Girlagan and the surrounding areas of Bahrain city were one of the worst hit areas in Swat.  

“Water started entering my home in the afternoon,” remembers Qamar. “People were saying that we should leave since the river would destroy everything in its path.” 

In the next few hours, Qamar’s family gathered their precious items and ran to a neighbor’s house uphill. At midnight, the River Swat roared into Girlagan and destroyed the entire street where Qamar’s house was located. Since then, they have been living in a generous neighbor’s house but were still barely making ends meet. Their few savings have been depleted on purchasing expensive food items from the bazaar in nearby Bahrain city.  GIRLAGAY

“My mother bundled up our clothes but we lost all our household items,” says Qamar. “Because I was taking care of my younger brothers and sisters, I was only able to grab my schoolbag. My entire collection of storybooks and cricket bats washed away in the flood.” 

Qamar’s father says that two days after his house was destroyed, a relief agency accompanied by government officials came to Girlagan and asked them several questions. They promised to deliver emergency aid through helicopters. However, no relief has been provided to the survivors of Girlagan yet.  

A few days ago, Save the Children’s teams assessed damages and identified the neediest families in UC Bahrain and UC Mankyal in Swat for distribution of tents with bamboo and a shelter kit for setting up temporary housing structures. Since they had lost their home, Qamar’s family was immediately selected to receive shelter support.  

Qamar“The day before yesterday, I met Save the Children team,” says Qamar’s father. “I answered all their questions but was ambivalent about their promise to provide temporary housing material. 

“We left Girlagay yesterday and walked for four hours to reach Fatehpur,” he adds. “We arrived here early this morning and were surprised to find tents and bamboos being distributed to those who had been selected in Girlagan and other villages of UC Bahrain.” 

After checking their national identity cards, Save the Children handed over shelter items to Qamar and his father and also provided a small amount of cash to assist them in transport of the materials. 

“Thank God that we can make our own temporary house now,” Qamar’s father says. “This is a blessing for my family.” 

These are the first relief items that Qamar’s family has received. 

Says Qamar: “I am now hopeful that we can rebuild our home and continue our lives as before.”

______________

Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now