USA — In the midst of the devastating wildfires in California, it is easy to see how much damage has been done to forests, personal property, and businesses. However, the smallest victims, the children, are often overlooked. Organizations like Save the Children are working to make emergencies like the wildfires in California less traumatic for kids.
Save the Childrens trademark intervention is called Safe Spaces. Save the Children has partnered with the American Red Cross and Childrens Disaster Services to set up Safe Spaces in evacuation centers that are in place for emergencies, in this case, for the California wildfires. Within a week of the fires spreading, Save the Children had established 13 Safe Spaces, providing services to over 1,500 children, in California.
The goal of Safe Spaces is to provide children with structured activities while they are staying in evacuation centers. Children need stability and routine, which are very hard to find in the aftermath of a crisis. Evacuation centers with Safe Spaces give kids the opportunity to do normal things, to play and do arts and crafts. Additionally, Safe Spaces give parents an opportunity to have some child-free time.
Save the Children also has implemented a program in evacuation centers called Resilient and Ready. Resilient and Ready holds workshops with the children in the evacuation centers, and offers the children an opportunity to discuss their feelings of worry or concern about the crisis. It also arms the children with coping skills and teaches them what to do in an emergency situation. After the children complete the workshop, they are given a backpack with evacuation supplies to use in case there is ever another emergency. The Resilient and Ready workshops are beneficial to children because it helps them to feel prepared for another emergency, and it gives them a sense of control amongst chaos.
In addition to Safe Spaces and Resilient and Ready, Save the Children also provides essential materials to children after disasters, even if they are not in evacuation centers. Since the California wildfires, they have supplied clothing, textbooks car seats, and cribs to schools and other organizations whose focus is on the care of children.
Businesses are also donating to Save the Children to help give relief from the California wildfires. The ToysRUs Childrens Fund donated $250,000 specifically to the Save the Childrens California wildfire relief effort.
While all of these efforts help, there is still much that needs to be done to help bring normalcy back to the children who were victims of the California wildfires.
(By: Francine Smith, Crisis and Emergency Management Newsletter Website, Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management, The George Washington University)