Monthly Archives: November 2016

Our Hearts Go Out To Chattanooga, Tennessee

Our hearts go out to the victims, families, first responders, hospital and school personnel, and child life specialists in Chattanooga, TN involved with the school bus crash today.

Children near and far can experience trauma related to this event.  For a great resource providing tips on talking with children after a traumatic event, please visit:

http://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/tips-talking-to-children-after-traumatic-event.pdf 

Additionally, here is a resource for educators providing tips on how to approach and support grieving students:

https://grievingstudents.org/ 

 

“Want to see my home?”

I know I have mentioned a lot about the kiddos and their families I’ve encountered. However, I also want to be sure to share these things as well:

The Shelter: the cots and the small area surrounding them became their home

I remember when I was playing with one kiddo he asked me if I wanted to see his home. I replied, “sure”, thinking he would begin to tell me about his home or show me a photo. But instead he grabbed my hand and said “okay let’s go”. He proceeded to take me to a small area in the shelter where him and his family slept. This was an eye-opening encounter.

The bags, boxes, and containers families had by their cots may very well be all they have left!redcrosscot1

The Schools:

The superintendent of the schools came to the shelter every morning with a list of the kids going to each school. He stayed and ensured every kid got on the right bus and got to school.

The Volunteers:

The constant influx of additional volunteers, the kindness and generosity everyone showed to each other, the amount of people that dropped everything and came to respond to the disaster…

Well, the journey has come to an end for me. It feels odd leaving when the disaster relief work is incomplete. In the child life world, I imagine this feeling would be similar to what I would feel if I left in the middle of a procedure. Side note: I have never done that. I keep reminding myself that the amazing CDS team is still there providing support and opportunities for play. Although I may feel I am leaving things unfinished, I think back to the interactions I had with the kids and families, the stories shared, the raw emotions expressed and the impact we had on each other.  The relief and break that was given to parents and family members. The opportunity provided for kids to be kids and to work and communicate through play. The infectious smile one received when observing the child care center. The amount of kids wanting to come to the center significantly increasing as word spread. The numerous thanks and appreciation received.

And as I remember all these things I can’t help but notice a smile spread across my face.

-Kelsey

Their Lives Disrupted- Kelsey Loftus

Walking into the shelter we were greeted with endless smiles. Sam (not his real name), one of the kiddos from yesterday, let out a big gasp and smile when he saw me. He was so excited when we opened to come back and play. When his dad, Bob (note his real name), dropped him of he began to tell their story. They had been living in the shelter from almost a month now. His mom has gotten sick and required hospitalization and has been in the hospital for about a week. His dad continued on saying, “I can’t wait for her to get out so we can get out of here. I am about to lose it”. Bob shared his plans for the future including leaving North Carolina as it has been difficult to find work too. “If I have to start over, I would rather start over somewhere else” said Bob. He verbalized endless gratitude toward us all for our time and services. “You have no idea how grateful we are for you guys. Sam woke me up bright and early this morning asking to go back to ‘daycare”’ stated Bob.

I cannot even begin to imagine all the feelings that parents and kiddos are feeling from this disaster. Having a place to call your home being ruined or washed away all in a moment’s notice. Having to stay in an unfamiliar place, in a big open room, with strangers, and no privacy. Having no idea how much longer you will be in the shelter or where you will end up. Being separated from family and friends. Being unable to work or leave the area unless there is a shuttle or if your car survived the disaster. I am sure this doesn’t even being to cover the list of feelings and emotions.  But, through my experience it is clear that having a safe place where the parents can take their kids to play, be kids, and work through the trauma utilizing play makes the world of a difference for children, parents, family members, and even staff. The laughter, joy, and smiles that come from center is contagious.

I snapped a few pictures of the devastation around us.  It becomes more real as I get to know the kids and families affected.

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Making Play Out of Anything after Hurricane Matthew – Kelsey Loftus

Our day was filled with lots of adventures from lost GPS signals to unknown place to be and unknown location for staying the night. Once it was all figured out where we would be going, we hit the road. We were told we were going to the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds consisted of a shelter with families from the tribal community and is also in a “dangerous” area.  We also headed off to a second shelter to see if our services would be needed there as well. We were maybe inside for a few seconds when we were approached by some of the kids and quickly became friends.  Here was a group of kids that had just had a traumatic experience, were uprooted from their homes, and were playing and “just being kids”.  I followed their lead as they wanted to put on costumes for Halloween.  Some kids had costumes or parts of costumes to use but one was crying because he didn’t have anything.  I helped him go around and ask if anyone had anything we could use for a costume and we creatively made it happen.  Although they weren’t going out for trick or treat, as probably most had planned before Hurricane Mathew hit, they still put on their costumes with a big smile on their face.

Later, we set up a play space at the first shelters, and at 1pm we were open! The kiddos started trickling in. We weren’t sure how the turn out would be because the tribe does not like to interact with the government, so the shelter manager had warned us that they may not be welcoming. However, we experienced just the opposite. Parents were extremely grateful for us and the opportunity to take a break and engage in self-care.  We had about 10 kids in the room although it felt like more than that at times.  Through my interactions with the kids I could tell they were having a difficult time. The kiddos all shared the fact that they wanted/needed one on one attention and had lots of aggression.

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One of the kids, Sam (not his real name), and I quickly became buddies. There was a big box laying out on the floor that the kiddos could use however they wanted, but Sam didn’t see it as a box. He saw it was a firehouse and that is exactly what it became. We took some scissors and made a front door, took a blanket for the top of the box to make the roof, and even had a secret pass word for the door to become unlocked. Next thing I knew, we were running around putting out fires left and right. Another child named Kyle (not his real name) quickly joined in on the fun too. Sam was the firefighter, Kyle the police man, and I was the assistant. We were quite the team. Our firehouse also turned into the firetruck so that we could get to the fires quickly. Once all the fires had been taking care of, our fire house turned into the hospital. Both Sam and Kyle were the doctors. Apparently, I had a very bad fever and needed lots of shots. But, after that I was all better. Thanks to the amazing doctors.

After a while, I noticed Sam appeared to be getting bored and disengaged. So, I worked with him to figure out an activity that he would be interested in, basketball. I found a bucket with a handle that became the basketball hoop once attached to the fence. We used a koosh ball as the basketball and after that it was game on.

All the kids had a blast and told their parents how much fun they had. They all couldn’t wait to return tomorrow morning, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings too.

-Kelsey Loftus

(Sorry for the lack of pictures!  There are strict picture regulations on this deployment.)

Deploying = Out of My Comfort Zone = Best Place to Be!

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Sitting here on the plane, a million thoughts run through my head. Starting with how this all came to be, to what this journey will be like. To think this all started from me responding to an email stating I’m available is crazy. I remember Children’s Disaster Services writing back stating it may be difficult to get us out on a Sunday but they will still send it in for approval with the Red Cross and see what happens. They said they would try to let me know as far in advance as possible. I remember taking a deep breath and saying to myself “you know what… this Is in God’s hands. If it’s meant to be and God wants me there, then it will all work out and if not then maybe next time”.  Side note: I have never said anything like this in my life.

And what do you know, hours later I got a call saying “it’s a go”. When those words reached my ears, my heart jumped out of my chest. I wasn’t sure what to think or feel. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited but there was a whole mix of emotions.

  • Joy for the opportunity
  • Sadness for all the people affected by the disaster
  • Curiosity for how it will be and how it all comes together
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Excitement for a new journey and challenge
  • Nerves as this is something very new
  • Happiness to be able to use my skills and time to help those in need

Now this is also coming from the girl that has never traveled alone before. So the fact that I am sitting here on the plane not only independently, but also where everything is literately up in the air and can change at the drop of a hat is even crazier.

But despite the endless mix of emotions, the one I feel the strongest is a sense of calmness and peace for I am in the right place and where I am meant to be.

-Kelsey