Children’s Disaster Services Training

Helping turn helplessness into hope

by Myrna Jones

Myrna Jones is the retired director of admissions, Phillips Theological Seminary, and member of Bethany Christian Church in Tulsa.

June 2, 2011. 9:00 a.m. Lisa, five years old, walked through the maze of cots in the Joplin Red Cross Shelter with her mother to the Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) child care center. Lisa’s family lost everything in the Joplin tornado, and had been living in the shelter more than a week.

As soon as her mom signed her in to our center, Lisa found me and we began our daily ritual. “It’s time for you to go to bed now," she told me as she gently led me to the corner of the child care center and directed me to lie down on blankets on the floor. She put a soft pillow under my head, covered me with soft blankets, and put a teddy bear between my arm and my chest. After getting several books from the reading center, she asked,"Which of your books would you like to hear tonight?” I chose a book, and Lisa sat beside me and “read” me the book while pausing to pat me each time she turned a page. I pretended to sleep, awaken, and then we went to play with the other children and caregivers in the centers.

We had fun with puppets, easel painting, playdough, dress-up clothes, puzzles, and many other creative opportunities that offered Lisa and the other young children in the center a therapeutic release and opportunity to play. After lunch, Lisa asked if we could “rock”. She snuggled on my lap in a rocking chair, and was immediately asleep – perhaps dreaming of the bed that she lost, and so convincingly recreated for me earlier in the day.

While Lisa, other children and their volunteer caregivers were playing in the CDS center, their parents were meeting with representatives of the American Red Cross, FEMA, Salvation Army, and other agencies who could help them with the process of rebuilding their lives out of the chaos left by the storm. When the tired parents retrieved their children from our center at the end of the day, they were a few steps closer to having a home other than the shelter that was now their refuge, and their children were full of stories about the fun they had experienced.

Lisa is just one of the thousands of children and families whose lives have been turned upside down by storms, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters. Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry of Church of the Brethren, is one of our Week of Compassion partner ministries. Working in shelters and service centers under the umbrella of Red Cross and FEMA, CDS has cared for tens of thousands of children, the ones most likely to be forgotten while adults address emergency needs after a disaster. Unfortunately, disasters continue to occur, families continue to be displaced from their homes, and children continue to need a safe and nurturing environment in which to play and learn while their parents cope with their new reality. To fill this need, more volunteer childcare givers will be needed.

I’ve been privileged to serve as a volunteer caregiver for CDS after floods in Georgia and the Joplin tornado. Few experiences in my life have given me the deep personal satisfaction and sense that I was meeting a tangible need as providing a calm, safe, and reassuring presence for these young children and their families. It has been a joy to be “on the ground” in a volunteer capacity with one of our Week of Compassion partners. If you have a warm heart, patience, team spirit, and a sense of adventure, I hope that you’ll consider attending one of the Children’s Disaster Services training sessions listed below that are scheduled in different parts of the United States this fall. The workshops train volunteers to understand and respond to children who have experienced a disaster. Following the workshop, participants will have the option of pursuing accreditation as a CDS volunteer. Accreditation involves background checks and references.

You can learn more about Children’s Disaster Services by visiting their website at www.brethren.org/cds. The video on the home page has more information about serving in a CDS center. If you’d like to visit with me about details of the training or serving as a CDS volunteer, I’d love to hear from you.

- Myrna Jones

Fall Training Information

October 7-8, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Central United Methodist Church 1013 Polte Road Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284 Contact: Local Coordinator, Sharon McDaniel - 360.724.3246, or Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

October 14 & 15, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Ben Hill United Methodist Church 2099 Fairburn Road Atlanta, Georgia Contact: Local Coordinators: Carrie Yoder, cyoder@haygoodumc.org, 770.634.3627, Mike Yoder, yoderjm@yahoo.com or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5. This workshop is in conjunction with the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. To register, please go to http://www.ngumc.org/Events/Detail/5406 or print out the registration form at the bottom of this page and send it along with the registration fee to the CDS office.

October 21 & 22, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday First United Methodist Church 106 East Main Street Victor, NY 14564-1304 Contact: Local Coordinator: Dot Norsen, 585.924.7516, or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

November 4 & 5, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Bethany Christian Church 6730 S. Sheridan Road Tulsa, OK 74133 Contact: Local Coordinator: Myrna Jones, myrnajj@att.net, 918.749.6612, cell- 918.688.0240 or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

November 11-12, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Somerset Church of the Brethren 606 Berlin Plank Road Somerset, PA 15501 Contact: Local Coordinator: Paul Liepelt, 814.445.8853 or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

Clean-up Buckets are Needed

The United States has been greatly impacted by a vast number of domestic disasters this year. In responding, our partners at Church World Service have exhausted their supply of clean-up buckets. These kits are incredibly helpful for communities making their first steps toward normalcy. If you would like to put together one of these important tools for response, or if perhaps your youth, women's, or men's groups, would like to do so, please follow this link.

Praise be to God for your ongoing courageous compassion for all those in need.

We are so blessed to serve alongside you!

(And a special thanks to our dear friend Myrna Jones for her story in today’s update!)