Save the Children staff member Kassi Starrine reads to children at a child care center supported by Save the Children in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Save the Children has helped more than 90 child care centers recover and reopen across the Florida Panhandle, so they can once again provide crucial early learning opportunities for the region’s kids. Photo by Elissa Miolene for Save the Children.

Save the Children staff member Kassi Starrine reads to children at a child care center supported by Save the Children in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Save the Children has helped more than 90 child care centers recover and reopen across the Florida Panhandle, so they can once again provide crucial early learning opportunities for the region’s kids. Photo by Elissa Miolene for Save the Children.

One Year after Hurricane Michael, Save the Children Committed to Helping Children Fully Recover across Florida Panhandle

Efforts Focused on Restoring and Improving Early Learning and Education Programs, Helping Children Heal Emotionally

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (October 10, 2019) One year after Hurricane Michael’s powerful winds left a trail of destruction in the Florida Panhandle, Save the Children remains committed to supporting children who are still deeply impacted and recovering from the emotional distress caused by the catastrophic storm.

The national leader in protecting children in emergencies, Save the Children has been working to make sure kids and families most affected by Hurricane Michael have access to critical early childhood education and afterschool services, and social and emotional support programming that helps them cope with the aftermath of the devastation.

“Hurricane Michael’s powerful winds have long since subsided, but children are still recovering from the distress of having their worlds turned upside down,” said Sarah Thompson, Save the Children's director of U.S. emergencies. “Many have lost their homes and access to critical services – like early learning opportunities – as well as their sense of security. Children still need our help to fully recover from the devastation and trauma of this disastrous storm.”

The strongest storm on record to ever hit the Florida Panhandle, Hurricane Michael damaged or destroyed many child care and early learning centers across the Panhandle – including more than 60 percent in Bay and Calhoun counties. Save the Children continues to collaborate with early learning networks serving the Panhandle’s most vulnerable children and families, and has helped more than 90 child care and early learning centers recover so children can get back to learning and playing with their peers in safe and supportive environments.

“Communities cannot begin to recover after disaster until child care and early learning centers are back up and running,” said Donna Harper, Save the Children’s emergency recovery lead in the Florida Panhandle. “That’s why Save the Children has been working with local partners to make sure Florida kids and families have access to safe, quality early education in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The well-being of children across the Panhandle – both today and in the future – is dependent on their access to quality early learning programs.”

Save the Children has supported youth organizations that provide afterschool programs and activities for children, helping them recover and expand to serve more children affected by the storm. In addition, it has partnered with school districts in the most-affected counties to provide funding for back-to-school supplies for more than 14,000 students – as well as new pants, shirts, underclothes and shoes to more than 2,900 displaced and homeless students in Bay County, so they could return to school with fresh clothes that fit properly.

Save the Children is also working with communities, early learning networks and university partners to deliver its social and emotional recovery programs, including Journey of Hope, which help children and caregivers understand and cope with the stress, fear, loss and trauma that can come in the wake of a disaster like Hurricane Michael.

“Disasters can affect children’s health, behavior and ability to learn, and fracture their relationships for years,” said Thompson. “Save the Children knows how critical it is to offer support to children that enables them to process their feelings after traumatic events,”

Developed after Hurricane Katrina, Journey of Hope is an evidence-based program that provides children a safe, small group setting to explore and normalize their emotions, develop healthy coping skills, build confidence and foster positive peer relationships. It also helps parents and caregivers cope and become more resilient after emergencies, so they can be there to support their children’s needs. Caregivers Journey of Hope is central to the process of establishing stable and cohesive communities of child caregivers.

In the earliest days following Hurricane Michael, Save the Children’s emergency response team worked to get parents the essential items they needed to continue to care for their children, made sure evacuation shelters were safe and supportive to children and families’ unique needs, and set up Child Friendly Spaces in emergency shelters – safe spaces where kids were able to play, learn and begin to recover.

To learn more about Save the Children’s disaster response and recovery work, visit SavetheChildren.org

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding 100 years ago, we’ve changed the lives of more than 1 billion children. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share. Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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