Forget the Disney movies, video games or even a comfortable room. In the midst of a true disaster, entertaining children often involves retrofitting the corner of a large room, setting up boundaries with whatever happens to be available and utilizing a few pre-packed items and a whole lot of creativity to retain their attention and allow the adults to deal with the stress of the situation.
Saturday afternoon, some 28 volunteers trained for such situations. Armed with disaster scenarios, they broke in to small groups, occupied various nooks and crannies at Collinsville Congregational Church and did their best to create child-friendly spaces.
The exercise was part of a 27-hour Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) Volunteer Workshop event to train residents for the unique challenges of helping children in crisis. It was the first in a series of workshops sponsored by the CT project, a group looking to bring the National Children's Disaster Services group to Connecticut.
Led by CDS teachers Judy Braune of Maryland and Cheryl Dekker of Nebraska, participants learned what to do before during and after a disaster, participated in team-building exercises, acted out scenarios, stayed overnight in their own makeshift “shelter” and more.
Local families donated meals and the American Red Cross provided use of some of its supplies.
The combination of the information and hands-on activities was very effective said Angela Carrano, a board member of East Shore Health Department.
“It was a great experience,” she said.
Pat Lazauski of Canton said she wanted to get involved, loves to work with children and is glad organizers, including Bruce Lockwood of Canton, are working to establish the program in the state.
“I just think the whole thing is so fantastic,” she said.
Organizers are hosting workshops in each of five established regions in the state. The next one in Stratford, set for mid March, is nearby full. Two more will also be held later this year.
The project is looking to have 25 people in each region of the state. Volunteers are not obligated but having a large pool makes it easier to put a team together to respond. CDS volunteers often respond to other states.
In addition to the volunteer training, the organization is seeking financial support to pay for workshops, portable cribs, “comfort kits” for children and a trailer to transport items to disaster areas.
Donations can be sent to:
THE CT PROJECT
PO Box 326
Canton CT 06019
Residents can stop by any Union Savings Bank and Reference Bruce Lockwood/The CT Project. Cause bracelets can also be purchased at the Canton branch of Union Savings, 188 Albany Tpke.
Fore more on the effort, including workshops, information and ways to help, log on to the CT Project's facebook page.