Disaster Child Care has helped care for children of American families evacuating from the war in the Middle East. From July 20-28, a Disaster Child Care center was set up at the Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI) to care for children of US citizens being evacuated from Lebanon, at the request of the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross.
“During the nine-day response, 23 child care volunteers provided a safe secure space for 231 scared, confused, and weary children to play and, in some cases sleep, while parents were guided through US Customs, and given the opportunity to apply for assistance, arrange connecting flights, or contact family members in the US,” reported coordinator Helen Stonesifer. Disaster Child Care is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board.
BWI was chosen as the location for the child care center because the airport was designated as a Repatriation Center by Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., for Americans fleeing Lebanon, said Stonesifer. Nineteen flights from the Middle East were received on the International Pier, bringing a total of 4,492 passengers to Maryland.
“The children were relieved to be far away from the window-shattering bombs and fiery explosions” of the war, Stonesifer said.
A 10-year-old girl who had been visiting her grandparents in Lebanon shared her story with a child care volunteer: “The war was scary,” she said. “We ran to our neighbor’s house thinking it would be safer, and then back to my grandparent’s house.” Stonesifer said the girl’s report indicated the family made this trip several times in search of safety. “One time we all huddled under the stair steps because we could feel the house shake from the bombs being dropped,” the girl said.
The girl shared her story over and over with her care giver, Stonesifer added. “This was her way of working through the fear she had experienced.”
“Hopefully, child care volunteers onsite made a bright spot in a huge cloud of sorrow and pain for these children, whose lives have been turned upside down,” Stonesifer said. “Please keep the children and families in your prayers as they embark upon a new life in the US.”
Governor Ehrlich, along with several of his staff, visited the Disaster Child Care center and shared words of appreciation with the volunteers for their service. The center received media attention as well, with two Disaster Child Care project managers being interviewed by a local television station, and by radio stations in Baltimore and Annapolis.