“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008″
(Sept. 2, 2008) — What happens to the children when a city like New Orleans is evacuated? They leave all that is familiar, and many take refuge with their families in a shelter, sleeping on cots placed close together to house as many people as possible. There are no toys except what they were able to bring at a moment’s notice, and no space to play.
Children’s Disaster Services is there to help.
Children’s Disaster Services has set up child care centers in three “super shelters” for those fleeing Hurricane Gustav, at the invitation of the American Red Cross. As of today, 14 volunteers with Children’s Disaster Services have been deployed to two shelters each housing thousands of people in Alexandria and Shreveport in Louisiana. A group of 16 more volunteers are packed and ready to go to shelters in Jackson and Hattiesburg in Mississippi.
The program already has received additional requests for 20 more volunteers to serve in other child care centers.
Children’s Disaster Services is a program of the Church of the Brethren Disaster Ministries. It is the oldest and largest nationwide organization specializing in children’s disaster related needs, and since 1980 has been working with children following disasters.
Arriving with a suitcase full of toys, the specially trained volunteers work in teams to provide a warm, comforting presence for children. The care centers become spaces designed especially for children to be able to be themselves. While safety is the highest priority for these child care centers, the Children’s Disaster Services volunteers also provide lots of individual attention for each child, and plenty of understanding to go around.
Due to the size of the evacuation from Hurricane Gustav, the entire nationwide base of volunteers for Children’s Disaster Services has been put on alert. More volunteers are standing by, ready to respond when and where they are needed.
Each team of volunteers stays in a shelter for up to two weeks, and then is relieved by a new team. With a volunteer base of more than 500 trained and certified volunteers, child care can be provided for children of disaster survivors as long as it is needed.
To become certified with Children’s Disaster Services, volunteers participate in a 27-hour experiential training to learn about children’s special needs after a disaster, and how to work with children and families to provide a safe and secure environment in shelters and other situations following a disaster. The volunteers undergo a rigorous screening process before they can be called to respond either locally or nationally.
How can Brethren help in this effort? Staff are suggesting the following ways:
- Support families who have had to flee their homes with prayer, and pray also for volunteers and staff of Children’s Disaster Services. Pray for those sheltering in Alexandria and Shrevesport, and for the volunteers who are caring for children there. Pray for those sheltering in Jackson and Hattiesburg, and for safe travel for child care teams preparing to go to those shelters.
- Contribute to the cost of placing volunteers in the Hurricane Gustav shelters, through donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund. The fund is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Donate online at https://secure.brethren.org/donation/index.php?catid=9, or send donations to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.
- A need for more Clean Up Bucket kits is anticipated, following the hurricane damage in southwest Louisiana, and the flooding in parts of New Orleans. Brethren congregations and individuals are encouraged to consider preparing and donating these kits, which are warehoused at the Brethren Service Center on behalf of Church World Service. Go to www.churchworldservice.org/kits/cleanup-kits.html for a contents list and shipping address.
- Consider attending a training workshop to become a Children’s Disaster Services volunteer. This fall, Level I Training Workshops are offered on Sept. 18-20 at Los Altos (Calif.) United Methodist Church; on Sept. 22-24 at First United Methodist Church in Reno, Nev.; on Oct. 3-4 at the American Red Cross in Everett, Wash., and in Tacoma, Wash.; and on Oct. 10-11 at the Holiday Inn in Evansville, Ind.
Go to http://www.childrensdisasterservices.org/ for more information about Children’s Disaster Services and about how to attend a training and become a volunteer. Or call the Children’s Disaster Services office at 800-451-4407.
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