After the devastation of Hurricane Irma in Florida, Abigail participated in Save the Children's Journey of Hope program.

Abigail, 17, smiles outside her home in southern Florida. Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program helped Abigail cope with the feelings of stress and anxiety she experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

You Can Help Send a Child on a Journey of Hope: Abigail’s Story

Before Hurricane Irma barreled into southern Florida in 2017 as a Category 4 storm, 17-year-old Abigail left her home in the Florida Keys and headed north, alone, to stay with her aunt in the central part of the state. Her parents had to stay behind because their jobs are in emergency service and elder care, providing critical support to community members who could not evacuate.

“During that time, the thoughts going through my head were: what if I come back and everything's gone? What if I have no house? Then what do we do?” Abigail said, recalling how she felt. “What if I come back and something happened to my family? I did not want to leave them behind because I didn't know what I was going to come back to.”

Returning home after a month away, Abigail’s house, fortunately, was mostly spared, but it took nearly two weeks to clear the debris surrounding it. Likewise, when she returned to school, “nothing was really normal,” Abigail said.

Transferring to another school a few months after the storm, she began participating in a weekly emotional support program, Journey of Hope, developed by Save the Children after Hurricane Katrina. The program helps children, teens and caregivers cope with trauma, reduce stress and become more resilient for challenges they may face in the future.

Each week, Gaby, a Journey of Hope specialist, would introduce the group of teens to a range of activities, games and discussions designed to help them heal emotionally and develop healthy coping skills. For instance, the teens were asked to write what made them angry on a balloon, and then they had the chance to pop them, symbolically getting rid of those frustrations.

“It really helped us open up and discuss the real issues of what happened,” Abigail said.

In addition to the stress and anxiety lingering from Hurricane Irma, Abigail was also dealing with the difficulties of being the new girl at school. But Journey of Hope helped her break the ice. “Before that, I had no friends and I didn't talk,” she said. “The program helped me open up to my classmates and become friends with them. It was so helpful.”

Save the Children was the first organization to prioritize children’s needs in the aftermath of disasters in the United States. Our Journey of Hope program, developed in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, provides early education centers, schools and communities in the United States with structured programs to support social and emotional development resulting either from a sudden on-set emergency or an everyday circumstance.

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