01/21/18 — Creating Safe Spaces for Children workshop concludes

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Creating Safe Spaces for Children workshop concludes

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on January 21, 2018 3:05 AM

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Delaine Tucker and Pauline Champion discuss their team's child friendly space layout during a two-day workshop held at Wayne Community College Friday that addressed children's needs during and after a disaster.

Wayne Community College hosted the final portion of the Creating Safe Spaces for Children workshop Friday, where educators and child care experts from across the county learned how to address the needs of children during a crisis situation.

Instructor Cameron Lewis, with Save the Children, said that during a major emergency like the one caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the unique needs of children can often go unmet in crisis shelters.

Whether due to lack of resources, time or simply knowledge, those trying to deal with an influx of displaced people may not adequately account for the effects being in a shelter can have on children.

By hosting the workshop, he said, Save the Children is hoping to give people in the community the knowledge needed to help keep kids safe and as comfortable as possible during emergency situations.

"Our mission has three parts, to provide children a healthy start, give them an opportunity to learn, and protect them from harm," he said. "We actually worked here during Hurricane Matthew, and today we're going over how to set up a child-friendly space."

The seminar lasted from 1 to around 5 p.m.

Representatives from dozens of local organizations attended, from child care facilities to Wayne Community College faculty and community activist groups.

Around 4 p.m., the nearly 20 people in attendance walked across the hall in the Walnut building to begin an activity in which they simulated creating a child-friendly shelter space like the ones they had just learned about. They split into two groups and began creating rules and schedules, setting up activity stations and running through registration practices.

Christa Ballage, teacher at Joyful Play Childcare and Preschool, remembered the effects of Matthew on her students. She said it took patience to deal with the wide range of reactions her kids had to the storm, from becoming more withdrawn and outright anxiety and panic. She learned about the workshop through word of mouth, and decided to include it as one of her required 10 yearly training sessions.

Ballage said the session was helpful not for any brand new information, but for the way it put the information she already had into a more concise and easily applicable context.

"I'm having a really good time, the time has gone really quick," she said. "It's given me a different way of thinking about this stuff."

Sherry Granberry experienced working in a shelter during Matthew first-hand. An early childhood education instructor at Wayne Community College, Granberry volunteered at the Wayne County Emergency Operations Center in the immediate aftermath of the storm, before moving on to help with shelter work. There, she saw that the needs of children were not being considered apart from the general population.

"We had quite a few children, and it was quite frustrating because as an early childhood educator myself, I knew that their needs were different but we couldn't really do anything about it," she said. "It was frustrating because you knew you could do something if you could just get your hands on some crayons and paper."

After seeing the workshop unfold, Granberry was confident about having knowledgeable people across the county should another crisis occur.

"People are coming out more prepared. A lot of times, we think we just put people together in a space and they should be grateful for what they do get," she said. "But we weren't always making it as good as it could be for the kids, and we can do better with what we know now."