When disasters strike, the experience can be particularly traumatic for children who are suddenly forced out of their daily routine and the world they know. To help mitigate this trauma, the American Red Cross wants to ensure every family and child is prepared for emergencies.
The Pillowcase Project is a Red Cross preparedness education program for children in grades 3 – 5, which teaches students about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills. The program tells students how to create their own emergency supplies kits by packing essential items in a pillowcase—a common household item—for easy transport during an emergency.
The Red Cross is currently piloting this project in 41 states, plus Puerto Rico. Take a look at a couple of programs completed this summer.
At Evanston’s Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.) summer camp at Washington Elementary School in Illinois, campers learned how to create a Red Cross emergency kit using a pillowcase they decorated and personalized with colored markers. Y.O.U. Executive Director Seth Green said families of children who complete the program can sleep well knowing their household is more prepared.
“When children are in a safe, comfortable place they trust, they absorb ideas and thoughts to help them grow, learn and be empowered to persevere if confronted in moments of risk,” said Green. “The highlight is watching them connect that learning experience with the images and messages they draw on their pillowcase.”
Nine-year-old Margaret drew pictures of soap, a water bottle and a t-shirt on her pillowcase – necessities she wants underlined with words “I’m safe.” If her family ever has to leave her house at a moment’s notice, she’ll be ready.
“I learned a lot about what to do in emergencies that I didn’t know before,” she said. “When I go home I’m going to put this pillowcase right beside my bed.”
At the Wharton Public Library in New Jersey, students were excited to learn how they can help prepare their family for disasters. Red Cross volunteers Carmella and Tom Ditmars led students in activities to teach them about fire safety and local hazards such as hurricanes and thunderstorms.
After reviewing steps children can take to stay safe during a thunderstorm, Tom led students in a chant to help them remember what they had learned.
“If thunder roars, go indoors,” the young students yelled.
Created in New Orleans, The Pillowcase Project was inspired by local university students carrying their belongings in pillowcases in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The program, currently sponsored by Disney, was standardized and updated in 2013.
The Pillowcase Project curriculum is structured around three core principles: learn, practice and share. Children participating in the project each receive a preparedness toolkit, which includes a ‘My Preparedness Workbook’ and personalized pillowcase with suggested items to include in case of emergency. They also receive a pledge certificate.
Contact your local chapter to see if this program is available in your region.