The winds were beginning to gust outside Garner High School on Thursday as Hurricane Florence moved closer to landfall, but inside the school it was filled with the sound of children laughing and playing.
Beach balls were tossed around, hula hoops whirled around hips and soccer balls were kicked across the room as more than two dozen young children played inside the emergency shelter at Garner High. It was all part of the effort by Save The Children, a humanitarian organization, to help storm evacuees still be children during this stressful time.
“Children have unique needs,” said Sarah Thompson, director of U.S. emergency programs for Save The Children. “Those needs show themselves during emergencies and particularly here in shelters we’re partnering with, they have access to safe places to play and cope around caring adults.
“We provide them structured play activities that really help them just be kids.”
Save The Children’s emergency response team is in North Carolina to help children whose families have been displaced by Florence. In the days ahead, the group says it will continue to work with children providing everything from temporary respite care in shelters to helping restore child care and early education programs disrupted by the storm.
Go to www.savethechildren.org/hurricane-florence for more information about what the group is doing in response to Florence.
Thompson said that children can pick up on the anxiety of their caregivers that something is wrong. She said they’re trying to help the children deal with the stress they’re experiencing.
But Thomson said it’s also important to make sure the services that the children are used to are restored so they don’t feel like everything has been taken away from them.
Flor Gonzalez said she was just relieved Thursday to have something to keep her children occupied as she watched them run around a play area set up by Save The Children. Gonzalez and her family left a trailer park community in Garner on Wednesday night to stay at Garner High.
“They’re happy and having fun,” Gonzalez said. “We’re having family time together.”
Gonzalez isn’t sure what she’ll find after the family eventually returns to their trailer on Old Stage Road. But she has no regrets about relocating to the shelter.
“I know I made the right choice to bring them to a safe place,” she said.