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Cascades Region Receives Grant to Teach Preparedness to Youth

Red Cross Oregon Trail Pillowcase Project
It's wonderful to see the students’ interest in natural disasters, and to have them learn to be prepared without instilling fear or worry.

The Pillowcase Project, which prepares students in third through fifth grade for disasters, was inspired by students affected by Hurricane Katrina.

As a result of successful participation in a nationwide pilot program in the fall of 2013, the American Red Cross Cascades Region has received a $26,000 grant to implement The Pillowcase Project in schools throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington in 2014. The project, targeted to third through fifth graders, teaches children how to prepare for emergencies by packing essential items in a common household pillowcase. In addition, the program provides basic coping skills such as breathing exercises to be employed during stressful situations.

The Oregon Trail Chapter was one of 19 Red Cross chapters in the country that piloted the program in 2013 at Sabin Elementary School in Portland and Cascade Heights Public Charter School in Clackamas. According to Sabin teacher Joy Hunt, the Pillowcase Project is an easy-to-incorporate and engaging curriculum for young children.

“It was wonderful to see the students’ interest in natural disasters, and to have them learn to be prepared without instilling fear or worry. Red Cross instructors provided information for students to learn and practice, and to share with their family members,” said Joy.

The Pillowcase Project is implemented by trained Red Cross volunteers in a one-hour classroom session, after-school program, scout meetings or summer camp. Students participating in the project each receive a workbook and certificate of completion, and have the opportunity to decorate and personalize pillowcases which are pre-printed with Disney characters and suggested items to include in the kit, such as toothpaste, flashlight, blanket and a radio.

Emma Reim, AmeriCorps member and youth preparedness coordinator for the Cascades Region, presents the Pillowcase Project to students. She believes the hands-on activities help to build confidence in kids so that they are able to take action during an emergency. “The Pillowcase Project is a fun and interactive way to create a culture of preparedness in a young generation,” Emma said. The program goal for the Cascades Region in 2014 is to reach 10,000 students.

Created in New Orleans, the Pillowcase Project was inspired by local university students carrying their belongings in pillowcases in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Schools interested in participating in the project should contact or call (503) 528-5651.