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.