Children’s Disaster Services responds to Washington mudslide




A view of the mudslide in Snohomish County, Wash. Children's Disaster Services (CDS) deployed a team of volunteers to help care for children in nearby Darrington, where community members were lost in the slide.
Photo courtesy of CDS

A view of the mudslide in Snohomish County, Wash. Children's Disaster Services (CDS) deployed a team of volunteers to help care for children in nearby Darrington, where community members were lost in the slide.

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) deployed seven volunteers in response to the catastrophic mudslide in Snohomish County, Wash. CDS is a program of Brethren Disaster Ministries. The CDS team served in Darrington, a community near the slide location. The response ended Sunday, April 6, having made a total of 83 child contacts, according to CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller.

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FEMA has reported 30 confirmed fatalities from the March 22 disaster, with 13 people remaining missing or unaccounted for, and 43 homes destroyed, Fry-Miller said.

CDS volunteers receive special training to offer sensitive care to children in traumatic situations following disasters, giving them opportunities to express their feelings and stories through carefully selected play activities. The volunteers on this response included disaster project managers John and Carol Elms, Stephanie Herkelrath, Kathy Howell, Sharon McDaniel, Sharon Sparks, and Caroline Iha.

The CDS team served children from communities close to the mudslide area, where community members had been lost in the disaster. They also provided childcare on Friday during a meeting of first responders and loggers who were carrying out the search for bodies, and on Saturday during a memorial service for one of the people killed in the disaster.

Cardboard robots built by children in the play area set up by CDS volunteers in Darrington, near the location of the mudslide in Washington State. Wrote Carol Elms, one of the CDS team, in a Facebook post:
Photo courtesy of CDS

Cardboard robots built by children in the play area set up by CDS volunteers in Darrington, near the location of the mudslide in Washington State. Wrote Carol Elms, one of the CDS team, in a Facebook post: "The major activities for today have been hot potato ball play and robots. Children made their own super powerful robots out of big boxes." What an important activity for children who feel dis-empowered while waiting to hear news of loved ones in the mudslide aftermath.

“We were basically providing respite care for the tight-knit community. The loved ones they lost were the librarian or the neighbor,” Fry-Miller said. The volunteers gave their attention to children who had “a certain level of fear, like when’s the next mountain going to drop on us?” she said.

The CDS response concluded Sunday, after the mudslide became a federally declared disaster and FEMA was called in, Fry-Miller explained. CDS had responded at the request of the American Red Cross.

In a Facebook post from the CDS team, there was “good interactive play with children and CDS volunteers. The major activities...have been hot potato ball play and robots. Children made their own super powerful robots out of big boxes.... What an important activity for children who feel so dis-empowered during this very sad time while waiting to hear news of loved ones in the mudslide aftermath.”

A girl paints a loving message, one of the children cared for by CDS volunteers in the aftermath of the catastrophic mudslide in Washington State in March 2014
Photo courtesy of CDS

The Facebook posts also quoted one nine-year-old girl who received care in the play area: “I hope you keep doing this for the children because it makes me feel better and it occupies the children. I like to paint and play with play dough. I like to draw. I love it when you do this.”

For more about Children’s Disaster Services go to www.brethren.org/cds .

(Jane Yount, coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries, contributed to this report.)

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