I have had my fair share of experiences with natural disasters, I lived in Miami during Hurricane Andrew, just minutes from one of the hardest hit areas. I volunteered with the Red Cross at makeshift shelters and vividly remember the children… scared, restless and tired.
A few years after Andrew I got married to a Baton Rouge native and moved to Baton Rouge. I thought I had seen the worst with Andrew until Katrina hit Louisiana and devastated New Orleans. Babies at the Super Dome went without formula and diapers. Children were separated from parents, some were lost in the shuffle of chaotic evacuations. More than 4,000 children were reported missing after Hurricane Katrina and the last child was not found until six months later. It was every parents worst nightmare.
If there was one thing I had learned from Andrew and Katrina, it’s that your family and your home must be properly prepared for a natural disaster. I thought I was prepared, until floods quietly took over most parts of South Louisiana, in the middle of the night. Without warning, the majority of South Louisiana woke up to find their homes filling with water. Homes that were not in flood zones and perceived safe. I can’t adequately describe the helplessness of seeing friends posting on Facebook that they desperately needed rescuing. It was a morning of shock and panic as Louisianans scurried to find boaters who could go out to rescue loved ones. Photos of children sleeping on roof tops seemed unimaginable until it became a reality.
An estimated 60,646 houses are damaged, 30,000 people were rescued; 13 deaths and thousands remain in shelters.
Thinking back to Katrina, I knew the impact Save the Children had on children after the storm, even years after. I reached out to a friend from Save the Children on day two of the floods and they immediately agreed to respond and help Louisiana’s smallest flood victims.
Thousands of children remain displaced and unable to return to school. Friends have told me of their children crying at the sight of rain. These children face risk of serious emotional and developmental consequences if proper steps are not taken to ensure that they receive the support that they need.
Keeping Children Safe After a Natural Disaster
I was given the opportunity to spend the day at our largest shelter with Save the Children to see their child friendly spaces and talk with families staying at the shelter. The child friendly spaces offer children a safe place to play while giving parents time to care for themselves and flood related business. It warmed my heart to see children smiling, laughing and playing in the midst of crisis. The parents I spoke to were relieved and grateful to have a safe area for their children to go to. The situation is still dire, we have 3000 people in shelters, they’re overcrowded and being consolidated. These families have lost what little they had and many of them have nowhere to go and no family to call on.
Save the Children is doing a phenomenal job of protecting and caring for the children in shelters, this is an organization that deeply cares for their welfare and well-being. Throughout the day I watched as the coordinator worked to close loopholes to protect the kids at the shelter. I can’t imagine the shelters without these child friendly spaces and the resources that Save the Children brings.
Save the Children is also working to assess the needs of families and fill those needs. Next, they will work on creating temporary learning stations with an education advisor so children’s education won’t be delayed. Once these kids go back to school Save the Children will have their psychosocial expert available to help children and equip teachers and parents with the tools and resources they need to support children that have lost so much and experienced such tragedy.
If you are able, please consider making a monetary donation in support of the work Save the Children is doing in Louisiana, this is a tangible way to immediately help Louisiana’s children. We have a long road ahead of us and we need them here for the long haul. You can learn more about the work Save the Children is doing and donate here —> http://www.savethechildren.org/gulf-floods