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At a glance: United States of America

Katrina: Children helping children

© UNICEF video
A woman with her baby at the Pentecostal Church campground in Redfield, Arkansas. The relief response here is being run largely by local volunteers.

By J. B. Silvers

REDFIELD, Arkansas, 12 September 2005 – The United Pentecostal Church campground in this town is now a temporary home to roughly three hundred people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The first people arrived from New Orleans a week ago.

The most recent arrived only this morning. All of the displaced people survived not only the storm, but also the mayhem that followed. Many are still unsettled by the violence they witnessed or suffered – like 17-year-old Randy Starks.

“That was the worst experience I had in my life,” said Randy emphatically. “Everything happened at the Convention Center. Drama, people dying, [and] people being raped.”

Thirteen-year-old Robin Kirkland also witnessed the violence at the New Orleans Convention Centre. She said she is trying to forget what she saw; she feels safe at the Church campground.

© UNICEF video
Robin Kirkland, 13, with a friend at the computer.

Enrolling in school

“I like it here – the way that they’re treating us. They got a lot of people around to help and everything,” said Robin.

Robin has just started 7th grade in Redfield. Going back to school is an important part of the recovery process for her and for other children affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. UNICEF’s experience in disaster recovery has shown that getting children back into school is a vital step in supporting their emotional recovery after trauma.

Volunteers and staff at the Church are enrolling the children in appropriate local schools. They are also arranging counselling for those who request it.

Children reach out to other children

The relief response in Redfield is being run largely by local volunteers, including a number of adolescent boys and girls. These young people have made friends with many of the displaced children, who have lost everything or nearly everything.

For the new arrivals, friendship is easing the transition to a new community. And the volunteers say their lives have been greatly enriched by the experience of helping the young survivors.

“I’ve learned so many things,” said Tyler Watson, 13, a volunteer. “And it’s really touched my heart. How many kids or grownups here that have been crying because they don’t have their family...it’s really hard.”

In the days ahead, efforts will focus on reuniting families separated by the storm – and on securing permanent housing for those who will remain in Redfield.

Maya Dollarhide contributed to this story from New York.




12 September 2005:
UNICEF special correspondent J.B. Silvers reports from the United Pentecostal Church campground in Redfield, Arkansas, on the situation of children who were forced to flee Hurricane Katrina.

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UNICEF's Allison Hickling is working as a volunteer in Texas. Read her account of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

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Tuesday 6 September – Evacuees at the Reliant Center

Monday 5 September - Volunteering to help in Katrina’s aftermath

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