IMG_2607Story and photos by Ekland Durousseau, American Red Cross contributor

Surviving a disaster as an adult can be an overwhelming experience; imagine how you would feel if you were a child.

Kim Jackson is a Disaster Mental Health volunteer and a presenter for The Pillowcase Project.

As a Disaster Mental Health volunteer, Jackson provides emotional and mental support to those affected by disasters.

As a presenter for The Pillowcase Project, she helps children prepare for disasters.

Those two things may not seem like they are linked, but teaching children how to cope with a disaster or emergency before they need it, is a crucial step to helping them feel prepared.

“When we are prepared or feel we have good coping skills when faced with an emergency, we are able to handle it a little bit better,” said Jackson. “It is pretty cool to teach children how to cope with an emergency before they really need it so they feel prepared and don’t have to be worried or scared in case something does happen to them.”

Her career as a school counselor make it is easy for Jackson to set up presentations. So easy, that last year, by herself, she introduced over 400 students to The Pillowcase Project curriculum.

The Pillowcase Project is a free emergency preparedness program developed by the American Red Cross for 3rd-5th grade students. It is designed to increase a child’s awareness and understanding of natural hazards, disasters and home fires, with a goal of empowering children and their families to take preparedness actions.

During each presentation, students are given a Disney-branded pillowcase to personalize, they then participate in interactive lessons that help them practice what to do should a disaster occur and how to cope with the related fear and stress. The pillowcase itself lists the items they need to be prepared such as a change of clothes, soap, pictures, toothbrush and toothpaste, there’s even a reminder to grab a toy.

“It is a rewarding feeling because I know I am able to impact not only that student, but their whole family,” said Jackson. “I may never know the full reach of the program, but I have had parents come up to me and say this is really cool, my child brought this home and we had conversations we have never had before.”

You don’t have to be a licensed mental health professional to teach The Pillowcase Project program, you just have to want to help kids.

To request program information, a class presentation, or to become a volunteer with the program in your area visit: