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At a glance: United States of America

Katrina: UNICEF kits helping displaced children

© UNICEF/HQ05-1119/ Brandt
Tinitra Corely proudly displays a drawing. The ‘School-in-a-Box’ includes ample drawing supplies.

By Mia Brandt

MERIDIAN, Mississippi, 13 September 2005 – Having fled their New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina struck, nine-year-old Tinitra Corely and her family are living at the United Methodist Central Church in Meridian, Mississippi. UNICEF ‘School-in-a-Box’ and recreation kits have now arrived in Meridian, and Tinitra and other children like her are putting them to good use.

One thousand of the kits were flown to the airbase in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the international response to the hurricane and its aftermath, and were shipped on by truck to centres in Mississippi where thousands of people displaced by the disaster have been living. The first shipment reached Meridian two days ago.

When the kits arrived, Tinitra and the other children at the church excitedly opened the boxes. Tinitra was especially pleased to see the books inside. “I really enjoy reading because I like to find out new things,” she said.

How the kits help

The UNICEF School-in-a-Box contains supplies for one teacher and up to 40 students. In addition to books, pencils, erasers and scissors, the kit also includes a wooden teaching clock, plastic cubes for counting and a set of three laminated posters (alphabet, multiplication and number tables).

© UNICEF/HQ05-1120/ Brandt
Children displaced by Hurricane Katrina help unpack supplies from a UNICEF recreation kit in the city of Meridian in the state of Mississippi.

Using a locally developed teaching guide and curriculum, teachers can establish makeshift classrooms almost anywhere. Over the past five years, the School-in-a-Box has been extensively used all over the world. 

Amy Carter, an educator, who is volunteering at Meridian’s Mt. Olive Baptist Church, was delighted by the kits.

“Food, shelter, clothing, those items [are] necessities, but the recreational equipment and the school supplies – that is what’s needed, because that’s going to be a common thread. The one that pulls us all together and gets things on track,” said Ms. Carter.

Recovery after trauma

UNICEF’s recreation kit includes balls for several types of games, coloured tunics for different teams, chalk and a measuring tape for marking play areas, a whistle and a scoring slate.

Pastors who have opened their church doors to the evacuees are happy to set up makeshift classrooms.

“We have been empowered by UNICEF to help us help our people,” said Reverend Gerald Hudson. “We know how valuable education is to get us out of a desperate situation.” UNICEF’s experience in disaster recovery confirms that getting children back into school is a vital step in supporting their emotional recovery after trauma.

Maya Dollarhide contributed to this story from New York.




13 September 2005:
UNICEF special correspondent Mia Drake Brandt reports on the first shipment of UNICEF ‘School-in-a-Box’ and recreation kits to Meridian, Mississippi.

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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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