Whatdo you do with feelings about losing your home in a hurricane? About living in a shelter? About leaving a pet behind?
When evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita found themselves in Dallas, KERA was there to help. In addition to raising $90,000 for area food banks, KERA addressed emotional needs, too.
The station aired a week of Sesame Street episodes about a hurricane on Sesame Street, and distributed Sesame Workshop activity books to shelters and childcare centers.
“Evacuees were just surviving,” said social worker Martha Jarmon. “ They’d lost everything. Parents were angry. Kids were angry.”
With their Mental Health Task Force partner, KERA invited professionals working with evacuee families to attend What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?, a “train the trainer” workshop created by Mr. Rogers and Family Communications, Inc. The station brought in a trainer from Family Communications, Inc. to lead the workshop.
The six-hour workshop presented interactive tools for understanding and expressing feelings, such as offering children clay to pound. They learn words to describe anger and learn to make ”Mad Puppets” to safely express anger in play and make-believe.
“Mr. Rogers’ program modeled how to tell children it’s okay to be angry. It’s normal. Many children and parents don’t know how to say, ‘I’m angry because…’” Jarmon said.
Trainees took the program to their agencies and schools, in turn reaching thousands of children.
“This project had a huge impact on the people working with families. It felt great to be providing essential training and giving them the support and real help that they needed,” said KERA Early Childhood Outreach Coordinator, Paige Griffin.
After the crisis, KERA continued to offer What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel? training workshops. The Mental Health Task Force kept emergency response structures in place, and KERA created and aired interstitials about survivors.
“When Katrina happened, we already had significant outreach,” said KERA Director of Outreach Paige Griffin. “What we were already doing prepared us to respond in this emergency.”