CDS Volunteers Continue to Care for Children Affected by Oklahoma Tornadoes

Photo by Bob Roach
Children’s art from Moore, Okla., shows the impact of the disastrous tornado that hit the town on May 20. Here is the child’s description of the picture, shared by Children’s Disaster Services volunteer Bob Roach: “This tornado people is sad. This tornado people is crying and crying.”

“Please keep the people of Oklahoma in your prayers,” asks Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has had a group of volunteers serving in Moore, Okla., since May 25. As of June 4, 325 children have received care.

Volunteers from CDS, a program within Brethren Disaster Ministries, have been helping to care for children and families affected by the tornado that devastated Moore on May 20. CDS works cooperatively with FEMA and the American Red Cross to provide care for children following disasters. Trained and certified CDS volunteers set up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers. Specially trained to respond to traumatized children, the volunteers provide a calm, safe, and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by disasters.

CDS staff report that the volunteers had to evacuate to a storm shelter twice last week when more tornados touched down in Oklahoma causing more damage and flooding, and more loss of life. All the CDS volunteers are doing well and keeping in good spirits, reports project manager Bob Roach.

The CDS volunteers in Oklahoma so far have included Bob and Peggy Roach, Ken Kline, Donna Savage, Beryl Cheal, Douetta Davis, Bethany Vaughn, Josh Leu, and Virginia Holcomb. These same nine volunteers plan to continue working in the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at West Moore High School through the end of the week. The team will be replaced by a new set of CDS volunteers over the coming weekend.

CDS volunteers began work in Moore on Saturday, May 25, initially setting up child care areas at two MARCs at Little Axe Elementary School and West Moore High School. The school sites were two of four MARCs that were opened in the Moore area on May 25. CDS served several children at the Little Axe center on Saturday and Sunday, before that center closed. The CDS volunteers were then consolidated at the West Moore High School center.

Donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund will support the response by Children’s Disaster Services. Go to or send a check to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren General Offices, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

CDS stories from Oklahoma

Project manager Bob Roach shares these stories from the child care centers in Moore, Okla., where Children’s Disaster Services volunteers are caring for children and families affected by the tornado that devastated the town on May 20:

A dad comes to check on daughter. “You having fun? We’re hurrying.” The child backs away and pouts. Dad: “What’s wrong?” Child: “I want you to go slow.” Dad hesitates then replies, “Okay, we’ll try to go slow.”

A grandfather stops by (without children). “I want to tell you this is the best thing here. My two grand boys spent the night under the bed and then spent two hours here. It was the first time they got to play or see toys since the school went down. You did a good thing. Some people don’t realize kids need to de-stress just like adults do–sometimes kids need it more. I wanted to thank you.”

Photo by Bob Roach
A child’s drawing displays her yearning for pets lost in the tornado that hit Moore, Okla. Children’s Disaster Services volunteers use play and art to help children recover from the trauma of such disasters.

A mom is ready to leave the MARC but her daughter has just started painting. She sits outside the CDS center to wait and begins to share: “We just moved from Massachusetts last summer and we lost everything. We got hit again last night. My father in law teases that we brought bad luck and I told him I would take the credit for any snow but I am not taking the blame for any tornados!” How wonderful that she can still have a sense of humor after all she has been through.

E’s mother just signed him out and he tells her he wants her to “meet my new friend.” He runs over to ask M (another child) to meet his mother, but she refuses to leave the play doh table. She waves and tells E’s mother, “I used to go to Plaza Towers School. I don’t go there any more.” The mother nods and replies, “I guess we’ll have to find a new school for you guys.”

During his visit with CDS one little boy stands in the center of the space, spreads out his arms, and declares, “I’m staying here forever!”

Yesterday a nurse from West Moore MARC came over and asked if I could come with her. She had a young teary-eyed mother who was very concerned about her 10 year old daughter (not present). Mother stated that since the Friday tornado, child has been very scared and upset. She stated the child was not acting like she used to. “What can I do?” I tried to reassure her that this was normal, and that children will go through the same phases of trauma that the adults were facing–almost like the grieving process. I explained that children also need to work through the trauma of a disaster and often regress to younger behaviors. I tried to explain the best thing was to get the child to express her feelings–talking, creative play, playing with classmates who are going through the same situation, drawing, art, and activities that help relieve stress and tension. “Let the child know you are having many of the same feelings and being honest how you are coping with them.” We spoke of giving reassurance to the child, and having the child involved in a plan of safety. Mother said she would get neighbor’s child and her daughter together and make emergency/safe back packs. Told her I thought this was good idea. I encouraged her to speak with Red Cross mental health and said they would be available now as well as in the future. I also gave her the brochure “Trauma, Helping Your Child Cope.” Mother gave me a big hug, saying, “I don’t know who you are, but you really helped!”

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