Nearly a year ago, Princeton Day School students watched as Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in New Jersey, and now they want to bring hope to fellow students in Colorado who are recovering from massive flooding in their community.
The American Red Cross is conducting a large relief operation in Colorado in response to recent flooding that devastated areas of the state.
In Princeton, first-grader Aiyan Doshi is proud that his grandfather, Dr. Bipin Shah, a Red Cross volunteer, is working with the health services team in Colorado. After talking to his grandfather, Aiyan knew he wanted to do something to let children in Colorado know that others were thinking about them.
The youngster came up with the idea that he and his classmates could make cards of encouragement and send them 1,700 miles away to the children in Colorado – a kids-to-kids outreach.
“I felt it was important the children learn about the Red Cross, especially after having witnessed the outpouring for Sandy, and that they understand giving back,” said Shah, a retired neurosurgeon from Rochester, N.Y.
Aiyan’s mother coordinated with the school and the teachers, explaining the outreach of the Red Cross and how what may seem like a simple gesture can positively affect so many. They eagerly helped the students in four classrooms make the cards, complete with colorful drawings, and personalized with their heartfelt messages.
Recalling their experience with the hurricane, Aiyan and his classmates wrote messages of concern, hope and optimism:
“Kids of Colorado, I hope you are Okay. I feel bad about the floods. I’m sorry for what happened. Hope this letter makes you happy and cheerful. Have a happy life! Sincerely Diuya.”
“Dear Friends, Hang in there because the sun’s coming your way.”
“Dear Friends, You are definitely brave to live through this tragedy – people who care will help you so I am positive your situation will get better. From Veronica.”
After Dr. Shah received the cards from his grandson, he took them to Longmont, where the Lyons Elementary School had relocated in a former high school that housed the Longmont school district offices.
After two weeks of no classes due to the massive flooding, the entire Lyons’ K-12 school moved into hastily readied classrooms in Longmont. On the second day in the new location, Dr. Shah and other Red Cross volunteers visited the children, passing out the cards for the Colorado children to read and share.
“These kids have lost so much and are just doing great. They want to be here and we are so fortunate that the Longmont community has welcomed us,” said Principal Andrew Moore, adding they probably will be in their temporary quarters for at least six months.
Dr. Shah sat in a chair sized for his audience as he talked with the children gathered at his feet.
“Everything’s going to be fine…. kids just like you, they’re just in another part of the country, have sent cards to share with you,” he said in a soft, soothing voice.
Then he asked, “Would you like to see the cards? Would that make you happy?”
The children excitedly answered “Yes!” As they shared the cards and read them, one teacher watched and her eyes filled with tears.
The messages of hope were tucked into their school folders to be taken home at the end of the day -- messages that will find their way into the hearts of the children and the community -- messages of love, hope and optimism from those who truly know what the children of Lyons have been through.
LARGE RELIEF OPERATION As of October 2, more than 1,140 Red Cross disaster workers have deployed to help people in Colorado, providing food, shelter, relief supplies and emotional support for those affected by the devastating floods. The Red Cross has provided more than 3,800 shelter stays, served nearly 122,000 meals and snacks, handed out more than 137,500 relief items, and provided more than 11,600 health and mental health services.
As residents return home, the Red Cross is distributing relief items at Disaster Assistance Centers, Red Cross Emergency Aid Stations and aboard Red Cross emergency response vehicles traveling through the region. The Red Cross is also coordinating with a variety of local community organizations to provide relief in Colorado including The Salvation Army, Save the Children, AmeriCorps NCCC and Operation Hope. Over the coming days and weeks, trained Red Cross caseworkers will be meeting one-on-one with people who need extra help with unmet emergency needs and creating recovery plans.
HOW TO HELP If you would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.
Story by Sue Kariker, American Red Cross volunteer assisting relief efforts in Colorado