By Kathleen Fry-Miller
Our Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) Orlando team has reported that they feel they are at the right place to offer support. The team is serving in the Family Assistance Center (FAC) that was set up starting Wednesday for families of those who were killed early Sunday morning and for survivors and their families.
The team created a safe and welcoming place for children to play. A few children came that first day and more the second day. As of this morning, more than 90 families have been served at the FAC, including 16 individual children in the CDS center. Because of the nature of this response and the privacy needed for families, no photos of children or families will be posted.
The whole team is: John Kinsel, project manager, from Southern Ohio District; Carol and Norma Waggy, from Northern Indiana District; Mary Kay Ogden, from Pacific Southwest District; Tina Christian, Gulf Coast coordinator for CDS, from Jacksonville, Fla.; Katie Nees, CDS professional development consultant, Child Life Disaster Relief; Erin Silber, CDS Tampa coordinator, Child Life Specialist. The team will probably be working Orlando through Wednesday or Thursday.
The Latino community has a strong extended family network, so many children are being cared for by family members. CDS is grateful to have Tina Christian, Gulf Coast coordinator and native Spanish speaker, serving on this response. The CDS team is also reaching out into the community and offering child care services wherever they are needed. A city government team is gathering information on funerals and memorial services and how they can support those families. As services are reported to them, the government team is asking if they would like some of the CDS caregivers to be present at services to care for children.
John Kinsel, administrator for this response, reported that the CDS team members were doing a lot of listening, hearing stories of grief and pain from everyone they talked with. One child was trying to explain to another why they were there. The child told of the family friend who died and the alligator that killed the little boy. Mixing stories together like this is so typical for a young child, especially when the stories are of such significance in the midst of trauma and grief.
One woman used the outlet in the children's center to charge her phone when no children were there. She ended up staying and talking with CDS volunteers for an hour and a half. Before she left she said, “You know, there’s just a really good vibe about this place. This is the first time I’ve been relaxed since Sunday.”
John Kinsel said that “the LGBTQ community is so visible here. There is such a strong solidarity within the community of those here to serve, you just feel that connection. Everyone is wearing a rainbow pin.” He went on to say that, “We’re in that cloud of processing, breathing, finding out what’s going to change. It’s never going to be the same.”
Another man said, “It’s a terrible thing that has happened, but look at all the support. One person showed the worst of what we can be. So many people are showing the best of what we can be.”
At the CDS team debriefing, John asked how team members felt about the small number of children served on that first day. One caregiver said, “We need to be here. It’s an honor to be here, if it’s 1 child or 100 children.”
Our loving thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families, the Orlando community, and the response community.
-- Kathleen Fry-Miller is associate director of Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry of the Church of the Brethren and a part of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more at www.childrensdisasterservices.org . A blog by Orlando team member Katie Nees is at http://cldisasterrelief.org/blog .