More than four months since deadly floods hit West Virginia in June, children are still coping with the emotional aftermath of the devastation, which included 23 deaths and an estimated 4,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Save the Children, in the days and weeks following the floods, provided immediate support to more than 44,000 children and caregivers. Building on this work, starting in December, teachers and community leaders will be helping children address their fears, anxiety and concerns in a safe setting, when they roll out Save the Children’s signature Journey of Hope program in the state’s five most heavily-affected counties – Clay, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas and Roane.
Working in partnership with West Virginia University, Save the Children trained 10 master trainers, who in-turn, with Save the Children’s support and guidance over the next six months, will train an additional 100 facilitators to deliver the program directly to small groups of children and caregivers in the affected communities. The program aims to serve at least 800 children across 18 schools through June 2017. By delivering the program in partnership with the University, Save the Children is building the local capacity to support children over the long-term.
Journey of Hope helps children and adults cope with traumatic events, develop their natural resiliency and strengthen their social support networks. The program, which was developed by Save the Children in 2007 after Hurricane Katrina, has been used in school and community settings following many U.S. natural disasters and emergencies. Through a series of team activities such as play, literacy, discussion and art, children learn to identify and manage their emotions and develop healthy coping skills for stress and trauma in an encouraging, safe and supportive environment.
“Even though the floods have passed, children are still recovering from the emotional distress of having their worlds turned upside down,” said Anna Hardway, Save the Children’s director of programs in West Virginia. “Many girls and boys have lost their sense of security, are unsure of their futures and need time to heal. Save the Children knows how critical it is to offer support to children that enables them to cope now — to continue their mental, emotional and social development and to build the resiliency they need to bounce back from displacement and disaster.”
In the months following the floods, Save the Children reached more than 44,000 children and caregivers, working closely with child-care providers, the community and public schools to help resume regular programming for kids, many in temporary settings. For example, with support from Save the Children, the Charleston YMCA is serving 124 children from all grade levels, providing support outside of regular school hours while school facilities are being rebuilt. The charity has also partnered with Kanawha County Schools to reopen six pre-K classrooms that would have otherwise been limited to one day a week. Those classrooms are now open four days a week.
In addition, Save the Children has helped 10 home-care providers reopen their home-based child-care programs, has supplied hundreds of home-care and day-care providers with much needed supplies, and has created a new, engaging after-school program for more than 70 displaced children in grades K-8 at an elementary school in Richwood.
“Children can begin to cope when they are able to interact and play with their peers and resume a normal routine,” added Hardway. “That is why it was so important to get these children back into daycare, afterschool programs and the classroom. This is essential to engaging kids in a supportive manner and refocusing them on learning during a stressful time.”
In the immediate days following the flooding, Save the Children also provided flood-affected families with essential household items, including car seats, Pack ‘n Plays, beds, assistive devices for those with disabilities and store gift cards for basic needs, among other things, to help them get back on their feet and resume their lives.
Save the Children raised more than $1.3 million for its West Virginia flood response. Save the Children Artist Ambassador and Trustee Jennifer Garner, a West Virginia native, also launched an Omaze Made #WestVirginiaStrong T-shirt campaign that raised an unprecedented $100,440.
For more information or to donate to Save the Children’s ongoing West Virginia flood recovery, visit: SavetheChildren.org/WestVirginia.