I am very fortunate to be involved in the partnership of Child Life Disaster Relief (CLDR) and Children’s Disaster Services (CDS). As a certified child life specialist with CLDR, I trained as a local Red Cross volunteer. I am on the call list of the Red Cross mental health team. I have supported at a local disaster site with fatalities and have provided phone guidance to parents about behavior reactions and support for their children.
Now that I have completed the training to be a certified volunteer for CDS, I am eligible for CDS national deployments. This month, the American Red Cross (ARC) requested CDS volunteer support for the children in Monroe, Louisiana whose families lost so much in the floods. Red Cross provided my transportation, food and lodging. I was flown from Cincinnati and the other 5 CDS volunteers came from other states. We were assigned to a shelter (a community gym) where families and children slept on cots and were provided food, clothing and resources.
Our team sectioned off a play space in the gym with materials and activities which we staffed 8 hours per day. What a rewarding week. Children spent time with us as nurturing adults who were not consumed with stress and paperwork after a disaster. The children talked, played, drew and re-enacted the months’ events. Besides the dance moves the children taught me, I was so moved by the transition and growth I witnessed. The parents’ faces grew brighter each day as they watched their children laughing and smiling. One of my favorite days was when I spent time with a toddler who cried each day unless she was held. Her fears turned into trust as she sat next to me and engaged with materials for a long time. I watched her progress from solitary play, to parallel play and finally she engaged in associative play with another child. My day was complete.
I learned so much from the children, the families and the team I worked with there. I look forward to my continued involvement with CLDR, CDS and ARC.
Gail Klayman, MEd, CCLS