The staff of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) have been working on a shift to new ways of serving children who are affected by disasters this year. The pandemic is affecting how volunteer organizations respond to disasters as they operate with caution and adapt to restrictions on face-to-face contact. During a time when CDS volunteers may not be able to work at disaster sites, CDS will be providing an individual Kit of Comfort for children.
An initial grant of $10,000 has been given from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund for materials to pack a first round of 575 individual kits to hand out to children after a disaster, along with parental resources.
“The upcoming 2020 disaster season, generally marked with hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires, will still be a reality for many areas of the country, regardless of COVID-19 being present,” said the grant request. “CDS recognizes the challenges disasters bring, and with additional restrictions in place to combat the spread of the virus, is prepared to respond in new ways to help children after a disaster with a creative and innovative approach.”
CDS staff have been in discussion with the Red Cross about how to provide activities and resources to children affected by disasters, when no communal play spaces are allowed and families are housed in hotel rooms not shelters. In response to this shift from hands-on to distant support, CDS has developed an individual Kit of Comfort as a mini-version of its traditional kit that teams of volunteers take to disaster sites for open-ended, creative play options in a communal play space.
The new individual Kit of Comfort will be distributed to children who have been displaced by a disaster. It will contain multiple activities for children to use within their new environments to encourage creative play and help begin their healing process. The individual Kit of Comfort will be assembled in both English and Spanish versions and will include resources for parents. The packs are small enough to be easy to ship and store, while still providing a variety of fun and a sense of normalcy to a child when they need it most. Some key features of the individual kit are toy cars, art supplies, finger puppets, a jump rope, and activity idea sheets.