My boys are survivalists at heart.
When they were little, each carried around a bag full of cherished things: “Puppy” the stuffed dog, a tape measure from Papa, a wallet with a few bucks in it, a note pad, a toy car, a plastic hammer, a blanket. Today they still carry around bags, though now it is a camel pack filled with a pocket knife, wallet, gloves, bug spray, bandana, flashlight, and first aid kit. As teenagers they are more inclined to be prepared for an emergency.
This is not a scientific fact, but, personally, I believe that people want to be prepared. Stuffing a bag full of essentials is one way to do that. Heck, I have a purse stuffed full with essentials, myself! This personal belief is what made me fall in love with the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project sponsored by Disney!
The pillowcase project is an emergency preparedness exercise that teaches children grades 3-5 about weather related emergencies, coping mechanisms, and provides them with a “bag” in which to stuff all their essentials. Instead of an ordinary bag it is a personally decorated, canvas pillowcase. I was very excited about this project, not only as a Red Crosser, but also as a parent. I signed up right away to be a presenter and am so happy that I did.
My first session was with a group of Girl Scouts from Wooster, Ohio. To my surprise they were very well-versed in tornado safety. They already knew the difference between a tornado watch and a warning. They knew where to go and what to do. They were very smart cookies (no pun intended)! However, when we talked about coping mechanisms, none of them really knew what that meant. As a presenter, I was able to introduce them to new ways to deal with fear and anxiety in just a few steps through coping mechanisms like breathing with color or singing their favorite song. These mechanisms can help on a day-to-day basis and in times of emergency.
When the time came to pass out the pillowcases, we talked about what they would put in their pillowcase. I asked them to think about the items that they would need in an emergency. They began to list the items like flashlight, band-aids, batteries, phone charger before they mentioned the important stuff: stuffed animals, pictures of family, and special toys.
It is very important to be prepared for an emergency physically – with all the emergency equipment – but it is equally as important prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Hence the need for a stuffed animal and family photos!
This project is valuable in so many ways. It is a fun and interactive teaching tool and the take a way is a tangible, touchable, stuffable pillowcase. My day-to-day tasks don’t usually put me in contact with children, but this project has allowed me to reach out to the children in our community as future Red Crossers, future leaders, volunteers, and emergency personal. I feel priveledged to be a Pillowcase Presenter.
Executive Director, American Red Cross, Ashland & Wayne Counties, Ohio.