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Pillowcase project helps KMC youth put fears to bed

Supplies sit on the table for the Red Cross’s Pillowcase project on Ramstein Air Base, Oct. 13, 2017. The project aims to teach disaster preparedness to third- through fifth-graders.

Supplies sit on the table for the Red Cross’s Pillowcase project on Ramstein Air Base, Oct. 13, 2017. The project aims to teach disaster preparedness to third- through fifth-graders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Milton Hamilton)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Volunteers prepare to train Kaiserslautern Military Community children for the Red Cross’s Pillowcase Project beginning on Ramstein in Jan 2018.

The Red Cross’s Pillowcase Project is a free disaster preparedness program for third- through fifth-graders.

“The Pillowcase project has been around for four years, but this is the first year that it is being implemented in the overseas military communities,” said Christine Spalding, Red Cross, division volunteer partner.

This project is the first step for the Red Cross to start getting kids involved in disaster preparedness.

“The Pillowcase project began in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina, after the Red Cross region president noticed that college students, whom were only allowed one small bag during the evacuation, were leaving with their necessities in pillow cases,” said Spalding.

According to Spalding, the region president thought a pillow, something everyone has in their home, was a great tool to use to educate children on disaster preparedness.

The Red Cross then partnered with a large corporation to fund the idea and start the training.

“Depending on where you are in the world, the training is more centered on certain specific disasters,” said Spalding. “The training could range from wildfire, to flood or hurricane preparedness.”

In Germany, this project concentrates more on fire safety, since hurricanes and other natural disasters aren’t too prevalent in the area.

“KMC children are scheduled to learn how to check doors to make sure there isn’t a fire on the other side, how to get low and how to make a map of the house, so they’ll have an escape route, as well as learn the differences between wants and needs, during emergency situations,” said Spalding.

We also teach our kids how to manage stress in a crisis, said Spalding. The stress management skills we teach translate well for school and at home, allowing kids to think more rationally.

Last year in the United States approximately 260,000 kids were trained by the Pillowcase project, said Spalding.

“The goal for our European division is to train at least 2,500 kids,” said Spalding. “I feel we will surpass our initial goal though, because in the KMC we have just shy of 2,000 kids.”

The Red Cross is currently training volunteers to teach the upcoming Jan. and Feb. Pillowcase classes.

Volunteers need to be at least 18-years-old and be able to pass a background check. The next training class for volunteers is scheduled for Oct. 28.

Homeschool groups interested in hosting a presentation and volunteers interested in participating in the Pillowcase Project, may call the Ramstein Red Cross Office at DSN: 314-480-2171 or CIV: 06371-47-2171 or email at ramstein@redcross.org.