It has been a difficult few weeks for many of the 161 students at Marnie Simons Elementary School in Hamburg, Iowa. Historic flooding along the Missouri River in mid-March left a majority of this southwest Iowa town under water. The disaster impacted at least 70 percent of the student population and so far 40 percent of the kids have not returned to school.
“We have a lot of struggling kids and more than half of our kids lost their homes,” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Wells, “They don’t know how to cope with losing everything.”
The American Red Cross was invited into classrooms this week for Pillowcase Project presentations. The popular Red Cross program teaches children how to prepare themselves and their families for emergencies like flooding, fires and tornadoes – all prone to Iowa. During the presentations, students received a pillowcase to decorate and take home to use as a personal emergency supplies kit.
“These kids have gone through a very frightening situation, and a huge percentage of this school was impacted,” said Jan Jordan, a disaster mental health volunteer with the Red Cross. “The Pillowcase Project provides them an opportunity to express themselves, to gain some confidence to respond to a disaster, and gives them the opportunity to share what they learn with their parents.”
In addition to learning best practices in preparing for a disaster, the 58 participating students also practiced what to do when a disaster occurs, and how to cope with the related fear and stress.
“Our families in general were not prepared,” said Wells. “If our children can at least start with preparation, and our community help build plans with our families, we will all be more coordinated in the future … and it will make a difference.”
The Red Cross has engaged over 35,000 volunteers, and joined with more than 13,000 schools and community partners to deliver this program across the country and at more than a dozen U.S. military stations abroad. The Walt Disney Company is the founding sponsor of the Pillowcase Project. Additional information about the Pillowcase Project is available at redcross.org/pillowcase.