August marks the beginning of a new school year in Oklahoma. This is the second school year since the deadly tornadoes hit central Oklahoma in May 2013. However, it is the first year for students at Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools to be in their new buildings.
In the last 15 months since the tornadoes, the American Red Cross has been right beside Moore schools as they rebuilt the elementary schools and tried to heal from a tragic and deadly day.
Red Cross volunteers are visiting schools to teach children how to better prepare for severe weather emergencies. Volunteers lead elementary school students in educational games and teach them how to put together their own emergency kits through the pillow case project. Each child is given their own pillow case they can decorate and are then given items like a glow stick, first aid kit, flashlight and their favorite toy to start their kit.
The Red Cross also partnered with Camp Noah to help children cope with the events that have forever changed their lives. Thanks to a grant from the Red Cross, Camp Noah held summer camps for children to learn emotional coping and resiliency skills through activities and talking with their peers.
As part of family recovery, the Red Cross is providing many of the student’s families with preparedness kits. These kits contain weather radios, first aid kit, flashlight, preparedness information and a flash drive to digitally store important documents.
To help teacher who lost everything in the tornado, the Red Cross provided grants to all staff ranging from $500 to $1,500 dollars. Many teachers pay for materials in their classroom with their own money and this gift made replacing key items that much easier.
The new schools are now open but the work does not stop for the Red Cross. Volunteers will continue to visit schools to provide important preparedness information and bring a sense of comfort and hope to these little lives.