At an action-packed "cleaning bucket relay," children assemble cleaning kits for UMCOR.
By Susan Kim*
February 26, 2013—As the lights dim, the platform on which the children are sitting begins to shake and slide. With no handholds, they brace themselves as best they can. The wind begins to howl around them, and water droplets spray their faces and arms. The sound of debris falling is all around them.
In the midst of this “disaster,” the children were really safe inside the Trietsch Memorial UMC in Flower Mound, Texas.
As part of a “Bishops Rally” event hosted by the North Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, more than 500 children in fifth through seventh grades lived through a simulated storm, then talked about what it felt like to be a disaster survivor.
The section of the event organized by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) proved to be both popular and profound for the young people who participated.
"I thought that the UMCOR station was great and the storm was very thrilling, and fun! I also learned about how to help others with making flood buckets," said Caroline Craig, 12.
The children assembled 100 flood buckets—also called cleaning buckets because they contain supplies for post-disaster cleanup—which will be sent to the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network depots, where they will be stored before being distributed to disaster survivors.
Children were also given light blue or dark blue bracelets. Then, the children with light blue bands – 158 of them – were asked to stand up. It was revealed to them that each light blue band represented a life lost in the catastrophic tornado that struck Joplin, MO in May 2011.
"I was one of the 162 of the light blue bands and learned with the large group that I was a victim of the tornado – and that really made me think,” said Allie Craig, 12.
Craig joined her peers in talking about ways to prepare for disasters and ways to help disaster survivors.
"If it happened to me I would want others to give me a flood bucket, too," said Max Luna, 12.
The children decided to think about what aspects of their lives they were willing to change in order to save some money to contribute to UMCOR. Would they order a small drink instead of a large drink? Would they order one less song or app from iTunes?
After committing to a variety of life changes, the children pledged $4,592.
Marji Bishir, disaster response coordinator for the North Texas Conference, said the children, as they lived through a simulated storm, genuinely tried to understand the feelings of people affected by disasters. “Before this experience, they may have heard about different disasters, but this really showed them how it feels to live through one—and how to help in the aftermath.”
Jackie Watkins, a member of Trietsch Memorial UMC who helped plan the event, said she believed the children were able to translate their simulated storm experience into disasters that happen in the real world. “We learned how to prepare ourselves and our families. We talked about the need to help people who live through disasters. And, in the end, we decided on the very real things we can do to help.”
Help UMCOR keep the needs of disaster survivors visible for all the years it takes to recover. Please give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.