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.