Fox Chapel High School junior Chloe Yofan is among the thousands of Pittsburgh-area students who want to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“If anyone is suffering around you, we should help,” Chloe says. “If that happened to us, I would be grateful for any help we can get.”
Chloe and other members of the high school orchestra are developing plans to hold an instrument donation drive and collect school supplies to help students affected by Harvey, which touched down as a category 4 storm on Aug. 25. The wake of Harvey’s destruction was hard for Pittsburgh kids to miss. Across the region, caring students are reacting to the disaster in positive ways.
Hearing about a natural disaster can be frightening for littles kids, but it can also be an opportunity for a teachable moment.
Fred Rogers, during his lifetime, often told the story of how his mother would tell him when viewing scary things on the news to watch for the helpers: “You will always find people who are helping.” It is a comforting thought, often repeated, that has carried on over the years.
First listening and then highlighting stories of people helping victims is a positive way to promote understanding of the large-scale tragedy, especially for young children, says Junlei Li, Ph.D., co-director of the Fred Rogers Center, a nonprofit that carries on the legacy of Mister Rogers.
“This is an opportunity to listen to the children,” he says. “Find ways to ask them questions, and allow them to ask questions.”
Parents and teachers can help kids understand by showing them how they may contribute to the cause.
“In my mind, the key phrase is ‘helping’ or ‘helpers,’ ” he says. “Children can be helpers and schools can be helpers, and all of us are involved in a bigger effort.”
Adults can cultivate a sense of safety in children by giving them ways to help appropriate for them, Li says.
Students in some area districts are helping in a manner that is especially relevant: By donating classroom basics such as pencils, crayons, and paper.
At CAPA, ninth-grade students through Sept. 15 are collecting supplies, says principal Melissa Pearlman. Similar efforts are underway in Plum Borough, Avonworth, and Pine-Richland school districts, among others.
The supplies will go to Brother’s Brother Foundation, a North Side nonprofit, that is seeking cash donations to help with shipping costs and school supplies. Find a complete list on the foundation’s website.
Other schools are raising cash. In Pittsburgh Public Schools, students are fund-raising through September to generate money for the HISD Foundation, which supports the Houston Independent School District.
In Fox Chapel, a loose change drive, “Be the Change,” is being led by the high school students. The money will be donated to the American Red Cross, says Rachel Machen, community outreach sponsor at the high school.
“Our goal as a district is to help us realize that no matter how small, everyone can help,” she says.