By Amy De La Fuente, American Red Cross Volunteer
Local Orange County Cub Scouts recently learned life-saving skills from American Red Cross Pillowcase Project instructors. The Pillowcase Project is a special Red Cross preparedness program that teaches youth aged 8 – 11 how to prepare for emergencies and stay safe during disasters.
The Pillowcase Project originally began as a community outreach effort to promote personal preparedness skills to students that lived through Hurricane Katrina, but has since gone on to prepare more than 1 million children across the country. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, many students evacuated quickly with personal belongings carried in their pillowcases. Now, during Pillowcase Project presentations, participants receive a pillowcase to decorate and take home to use as a personal emergency supplies kit.
Pillowcase Project lessons utilize age-appropriate materials and supplies and instructors engage students by speaking about the types of local disasters that affect their communities. Using a “Learn, Practice & Share” framework along with interactive activities, The Pillowcase Project is able to instill important life-saving skills in a fun and memorable way for students. “The kids really love it!” says Erin Ryu, Pillowcase Project instructor. “Their eyes light up when we perform activities like the drop, cover and hold on.”
Pillowcase Project instructor Vivian Truong describes her lessons as fulfilling and says, “I never know what to expect! The kids have very specific questions and you can see how hard they are thinking.” Vivian says one Cub Scout asked her, “What if we are on the second floor of a building that is on fire? How do I know if my smoke alarm is working?” Vivian goes on to say that “the kids are encouraged to come up with different and personalized scenarios” in order to prepare them for emergencies at home.
In addition to teaching young people how to prepare for disasters like home fires, The Pillowcase Project also teaches coping skills that will help students stay calm during and after a disaster. “I am excited that the Red Cross was able to offer this free program. It is important to be prepared!” said the mother of a student who completed The Pillowcase Project curriculum. Whether it be questions about earthquakes, fires or hurricanes, The Pillowcase Project helps youth gain confidence in their abilities to be prepared for emergencies and use their knowledge to act as advocates for emergency preparedness in their homes and communities.
After a lesson, it is not uncommon for Pillowcase Project instructors to hear from teachers and parents that participants went home excited and talked with their family about what they learned. Although Pillowcase Project lessons are given to 3rd - 5th graders, their ability to retain information and their interest in sharing those life-saving skills with family and friends plays a large role in a spreading the information to others. The Pillowcase Project seeks to build resiliency among young people and encourages them to share their new skills with family members.
The American Red Cross Desert to the Sea Region, which serves Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, is doing its part in administering the program and is on track to train 4,825 youth this year.
To learn more about The Pillowcase Project check out redcross.org/pillowcase. To learn about the other Red Cross preparedness programs available in your community visit redcross.org/dts.