Children play with trained Save the Children staff and volunteers in a Child Friendly Space in an emergency shelter in the Florida Panhandle in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Save the Children's Child Friendly Spaces are safe, designated areas where children can play, socialize and begin to recover immediately after a disaster. Six months after Hurricane Michael, Save the Children remains committed to the long-term needs of children impacted by the catastrophic storm. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Save the Children Remains on the Ground in Florida Panhandle, Committed to Kids’ Long-Term Recovery in Wake of Hurricane Michael

Efforts Center on Restoring Early Learning, Supporting Emotional Recovery

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 10, 2019) Six months after Hurricane Michael’s powerful winds left a trail of destruction in the Florida Panhandle, Save the Children remains committed to supporting the ongoing recovery needs of the catastrophic storm’s most vulnerable victims – children.

The national leader in protecting children in emergencies, Save the Children is working to make sure kids and families in the Florida Panhandle most affected by Hurricane Michael have access to crucial 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 has 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 partners in the Sunshine State to help restore these centers 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. “Children need to get back to a comforting, familiar routine – one that allows them to learn, play, eat and grow with their peers.”

Save the Children is providing child care and early learning centers with supplies, funding and support to help them reopen as soon as possible. In addition, it is supporting youth organizations that provide afterschool programs and activities for children, helping them recover and expand to serve children affected by the storm.

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 and HEART, 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.

HEART (Healing and Education Through the Arts) helps children affected by serious or chronic stress find new ways to share their feelings and experiences, using the proven power of artistic expression to help them recover.

In the earliest days following Hurricane Michael, Save the Children’s emergency response team set up safe play areas in evacuation shelters – called Child Friendly Spaces – where kids could be kids again, express themselves and begin to cope; got critical family supplies into the hands of moms and dads who needed them most through Emergency Distribution Events; and played a leading role in helping child care centers and education programs recover and reopen, to get children back to learning and their normal routine.

To learn more about Save the Children’s Hurricane Michael 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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