By Jane Dean, Red Cross Volunteer

My job as a pediatric nurse has certainly taught me to “expect the unexpected.”  I just never know what question or comment a child is going to come up with next!  And, my love for children makes it easy to transfer my skills and experience as a pediatric nurse over to my role as a Red Cross volunteer— even though being a Pillowcase Project presenter means using these skills in a completely different environment.  But, knowing the “tricks of the trade” always makes for a smoother running, fun presentation and being prepared helps me get through those awkward moments, those moments when the unexpected occurs!


The Pillowcase Project is dear to my heart and one reason I love teaching it so much is the enthusiastic reaction I get from the children. Furthermore, they all soak up the preparedness information like a sponge, which is great. I have come across so many children in the hospital who are scared of the unknown and what seems to help allay their fears is explanation and preparation.  So for helping with feelings like that, the Pillowcase Project is a very useful tool!


My favorite sections to teach during a presentation are: coping skills, role play for home fire – “crawl low and go,” and, role play for earthquake – “drop, cover and hold on.” The students have a lot of fun demonstrating these skills and, I have found there are usually a few very good young actors and actresses in every group!   When it comes to picking items out of the pillowcase, I like to get the students to help. We all shout “dig deep, don’t peep” each time a student reaches in for an item. They seem so proud of themselves when they hold up their item and tell everyone, that if in an emergency, would their item be a “want” or a “need.” Of course, by this point in the presentation, the entire class is usually out of their seats, arms stretched up, doing their very best to answer every “need” or “want” question as well.


A particular memorable moment occurred one day, just after we had handed out the pillowcases for the children to decorate and color.   In the midst of it all, a child asked, “Miss Jane, can I have your autograph?”  I had no idea she even knew what an autograph was!? Well, this started an epidemic of sorts and, very soon the whole class wanted an autograph from either myself or my co-presenter. We had so much fun and signed every pillowcase in the room!   When we were about to leave, one of the little girls came over to me to say thank you. She flung her arms around my waist and gave the biggest tightest hug a little girl could ever give.   I was so touched.  This one hug snowballed and very soon we were having a huge “group hug,” complete with giggling all-around.

These precious moments make teaching the Pillowcase Project utterly amazing. If I can help reduce student’s anxiety and allay their fears about “big emergencies” through preparedness education, all while making sure they have a good time, then everything I do as a Red Cross volunteer is completely worthwhile!


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