By Heream Yang, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer
At first glance, it simply appears to be a white pillowcase. However, after a few minutes of creative thought, hard work and the use of plenty of colored markers, it turns into much more than a pillowcase. Not only has it become a colorful display of a child’s artistic talents- it has also become a safe, sturdy place for a child to store supplies in the case of an emergency.
You may be wondering, “Why a pillowcase?” The signature white American Red Cross pillowcase each participant in the Pillowcase Project receives is a practical take-home souvenir of a major project. Through this project—sponsored by Disney—trained Red Cross volunteers offer an hour-long presentation to children from grades 3 through 5, educating them on personal and family preparedness, local hazards and basic coping skills. The “learn, practice, share” method used for the presentation allows youngsters to truly grasp what a disaster is and how to stay ready for one.
In our case, as residents of the Texas Gulf Coast, perhaps the most prominent local hazard is hurricanes. Luckily, in the months leading up to hurricane season, dedicated volunteers have been preparing our children through the Pillowcase Project. Due to the program’s flexibility, it can easily be presented in a variety of settings, such as schools and after-school programs, reaching many different audiences. Some of these audiences include the 100 refugee children instructed by the Rice University Red Cross Club, over 430 students at Escamilla Elementary, and 70 underprivileged children through New Hope Housing. Furthermore, a new grant with YMCA ensures that over 350 children will receive valuable training through the Pillowcase Project in the months to come.
Through the Pillowcase Project, the children who are most at risk during catastrophes, due to lack of resources and knowledge, are being empowered to stand strong in the face of disaster. Through these simple white pillowcases, the Texas Gulf Coast is getting ready to face the hurricanes prepared and strong.