December 05, 2012

By Jennifer Shin

Here for Each Other: Helping Families in the Aftermath of Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was an unprecedented super storm that hit parts of the East Coast badly, and we at Sesame knew we wanted to do anything we could to help those affected by it. Fortunately, a few years ago we had created Here for Each Other: Helping Families After An Emergency, an outreach resource that we knew could be helpful in getting families through this tough time. We reached out to our various partners to offer up this resource, and were relieved to find that so many of them were already doing such wonderful work in their communities, helping families through the aftermath of the storm. In particular, a partner in our Healthy Habits for Life initiative, the US Department of Health and Human Services, Region II, (HHS) was already working with other federal agencies to support the response and recovery efforts for communities impacted by the storm. We wanted to support them in any way we could.

We decided one way Sesame could help was to bring Abby Cadabby to meet and greet those most affected by the storm, those who could benefit from a little lightness in their lives after all they had gone through. Two weeks ago, our first site visit with HHS was a Red Cross shelter that had been set up in a gymnasium at Nassau Community College on Long Island, an area hit hard by the hurricane. Armed with the Here for Each Other resources, activity sheets, stickers, toys, and DVDs, we stopped by the shelter to visit the families and children who had been displaced there. The shelter was home to about 700 people, all of whom had been located there after much damage to their homes and some who no longer had homes to go back to. They were spending their days in a huge gym, with not much more than a cot and some personal belongings to call their own, as they struggled to try to rebuild their lives post-storm.

Abby visited the play area set up for the young children at this shelter, where volunteers from Save the Children and Children’s Disaster Services had been offering support to the 30 or so children who were spending time at the shelter. Because most of them had gone back to school and resumed some normalcy in their lives, there were only a handful of children present at the time we were there, but the joy Abby brought to those children, and even the adults at the shelter, was remarkable. It was a truly amazing experience to be a part of these relief efforts, not only to be there to provide tangible resources for these providers and the families they serve, but to bring a bit of lightness to those who have been going through so much.

The day after the Red Cross shelter visit with HHS, we headed to HOPES Head Start in Hoboken, another city devastated by the hurricane. Again we showed up with a bunch of Sesame books, DVDs, outreach materials, and the Here for Each Other resources, not knowing what to expect and who we would meet. The school had just re-opened a little more than a week after the hurricane had hit, so all of these children had been impacted by the storm in one way or another. There were about 80 pre-school children who were all so thrilled to meet Abby, and after the long week they had gone through, we were thrilled to bring some happiness to these children and their teachers.

While we at Sesame are not the ones on the ground doing the necessary and exhausting relief and recovery work, the fact that the resources and materials we produce can help a community in need, give families reassurance that whatever they are going through they are not alone, and bring a little bit of joy to those who need it, well, that is exactly why we do the work we do. We’re grateful for wonderful partners like HHS who gave us the opportunity to do these site visits and bring our resources into the communities in need of them. For all of the wonderful and resilient people we met who are going through so much- we are here for you.

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