Tuesday evening I arrived in Fayetteville, NC. During my last flight, I was on a very small plane, throughout the flight I had a long conversation with an elderly lady sitting next to me. She shared that she was coming back home for the first time since Hurricane Matthew. As we were landing, the sun was just setting and we could see some of the destruction that had happened. I could see quiet tears running down her cheeks as she stared at the window, I reached over and gently held her hand as we landed. No words were spoken but we hugged one another and I knew at that moment, this was the only place I wanted to be.
It was a strange feeling walking off a the plane and not knowing who I was looking for, who was picking me up, or where I was going. Quickly I found my team members and we loaded into a van to Fort Braggs where the Red Cross base is. After a lot of logistics we were taken to our hotel for the evening. I won’t go into all the details, but it was a long night. The night included knocks on the door from unwelcomed guests and also bugs. None of this seemed to bother me though, you learn quickly to roll with things and just laugh (a lot) along the adventure. It’s pretty crazy how quickly hundreds of “strangers” become your closer friends when you are all thrown together to accomplish the same purpose.
Wednesday morning we thankfully checked out of that hotel. After a lot of “hurry up and wait” we finally arrived at the shelter! As I mentioned before we are at a shelter with 48 residents, 11 of whom are children. We were greeted very warmly and enthusiastically as many expressed “we’ve been waiting for you!” “Where have you been?!”
The Red Cross shelter leader gave me a tour of the shelter, as we were touring and he was showing me the room where all the residents are sleeping, a young girl came running over and gave me the sweetest hug. When I told her I was there to spend time with her, her mothers eyes were filled with tears as she said “you don’t know how much that means.”
We couldn’t set up our space quick enough as a couple children didn’t want to wait. We spent the rest of the day playing and getting know a few of the children who have been living in the shelter. I particularly enjoyed getting to know a 6yo little girl who had just started back at school. We sat working on her homework together and I loved the way we started to develop a relationship. It took some silly dancing and voices but eventually she allowed me to assist her with her homework. I’m looking forward to continuing fostering relationships and helping the children get a sense of “normal” back…
Sunday night at 8:09pm I received a text from one of my local teammates and all it said was “Deploying!! Can you go?” To be honest, my first thoughts were “I’m not able to go…” I sat there trying to wrap my head around my hesitations…
You see, last week there was a possibility that I would be deployed and I “felt ready.” The timing seemed great, my team at work was fully staffed, I was feeling energized and rested. But, we ended up being told to “stand down.”
Quickly I recognized how selfish I was being, as pictures from the news flashed through my mind from Hurricane Matthew. My heart was quickly softened as I thought about how hard these past few weeks must have been for the families and children in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I was overwhelmed as I started to think about the 11 children that are living in a shelter and have witnessed things far harder then anything I have ever experienced. I sent an emailing saying I would check in with my management team first thing Monday morning but would try to go…
Monday morning my management worked some magic! My team at work is amazing and supportive – I was cleared to go! I sent Children’s Disaster Services an email saying I was ready….that’s when the waiting began…
I received confirmation that I would be going and that details would be coming my way. If you know me at all, you know I am a planner and like to know what I am heading into, where I will be staying, what time I need to be ready, etc. If you have worked in the field of disaster relief at all, you are probably laughing at this moment…
Monday evening came and went and I had no information on what time I would be leaving. I set an alarm for 5:00am and began checking my email every 10 minutes. I became a bit anxious as my teammates (there are 4 of us going from all over the country) started to get their flight itinerary and I still had not heard anything. I have yet to meet anyone on my team but when I was sent the roster on Monday, I began texting one of them. I sat in my PJ’s sipping coffee at home as she was on her way to the airport with a flight itinerary in hand…
Around 10:30am it finally came, an email was sent and my flight was booked to leave out of Cincinnati at 2:35pm. I packed a bag with no more detail then I would be going with a team of four to Fayetteville, North Carolina where I will be assisting with disaster relief after Hurricane Matthew in a shelter that is housing 48 residents, 11 of whom are children. I don’t know where I am staying or if I needed to bring a pillow or sleeping bag (I didn’t bring one). My plane is boarding and I am on my way with a one-way ticket to Fayetteville, North Carolina!
We have a Certified Child Life Specialist and child life student deploying with our partner, Children’s Disaster Services, to Fayetteville, NC to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. This particular disaster has been extra complicated to get services into for many reasons, so we are excited to start serving! The team will be working in a Red Cross shelter housing 48 residents and 11 young children, whom will likely be there for a while. Please keep the entire team, our child life friends, and of course the disaster victims and survivors in your thoughts as they continue to recover from this devastating storm.
We were excited to be a part of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) Critical Response Training this past week in Maryland. This two day training focused on specialized deployments including acts of terrorism, man-made disasters, and aviation/transportation disasters. We heard from the American Red Cross, FEMA, NTSB as well as others. Katie Nees (child life specialist) also had the privilege of presenting at this training. There are so many innovative and energizing things happening with our partnership with CDS!
Our partner, Children’s Disaster Services is still on stand-by with the Red Cross for potential deployment. Thank you to the CDS team that was ready and prepared to deploy already! They have not been sent out yet at this point. As of right now, the needs are continually being assessed along with the changing status of shelters and disaster assistance centers. Some areas are facing extreme flooding which has created extra challenges for responding. It can sometimes be an hour-by-hour assessment to determine the best location and timing for deployment. We are especially grateful for those of you in Florida and surrounding areas who were able to make it to our training in Tampa last month and are working hard to complete your certification paperwork! Many of you have sent in your availability, even if just to drive to a disaster site for a short weekend, which is great info to have as CDS keeps tabs on the ever-changing situation and need. Contact us if you have any questions!
There is potential for a significant need to help children affected by Hurricane Matthew. If you are certified with our partner, Children’s Disaster Services, please consider your availability to deploy and email the CDS office with that information: Kfryfirstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: If you recently trained in Tampa, FL or Kalamazoo, MI, send in your paperwork and your availability. There is a possibility CDS could expedite your paperwork depending on the deployment need and your availability.
ALSO: If you are connected with us (CLDR), you have trained for deployment, and are unsure if you have completed all the necessary paperwork, feel free to email us: CLDisasterRelief@gmail.com to inquire about your certification status.
Thanks to all of you who seek to assist children during these difficult times!
The Children’s Disaster Services Training in Kalamazoo, Michigan last weekend was a terrific mix of child life specialists, teachers, social workers, emergency management employees, and others with a wide variety of backgrounds and a common love for kids. Take a look at these faces- you might see them on a future deployment!