So before I was hired, Alex (my boss), asked me how I was with children. I gave the most honest answer I could think of, “People say I great with kids, but I don’t see it.” I guess that was enough for him; he gave me the assignment of working with the kids in our valley. When I first told my friends and family I would be working with kids…they laughed! Many were surprised that I would be okay working with children. I don’t have any of my own, and to my own claims, I don’t have that “thing.” You know the “thing” people who love children have; the ability to make anything fun. To make things harder for me, I had to incorporate fire safety and prevention, and present it to 130 school sites…Gulp…What?!
So of course, I freaked out and doubted myself. The assignment was given, can’t go back and tell Alex I can’t do something. So, I looked over some materials to make my workbook, and had it ready for print. Kid Firestopper, the after school program, was ready…question is was I? Ready or not, in October I started my Kid Firestopper adventure. I went out to elementary schools and began to teach the kids how to make a fire safety plan, a family communication plan, and how to make an emergency kit. I began to ask simple questions like, “do you know your address and phone number?” To my surprise many didn’t. Then I asked about smoke detectors…many of the kids said they didn’t have one, but I suspected they didn’t know what one looked like, so I showed them. I then taught them how to test the smoke detectors and what sound it made…even making one child cry (my bad) alarm scared him. Lastly, I taught them how to crawl out of their home and why they should practice this as part of their fire drill. I encouraged them to have their parents fill the workbook out with them. Everything seemed to go okay, but is still didn’t feel confident in my work. So after two months of critiquing my presentation; I decided to created a PowerPoint with animated pictures of disasters and brought the workbook to life, so to speak. This allowed me to get more involved with the kids.
Recently, I was asked to present to a middle school. No big deal right? Well, kind of, my Kid Firestopper was designed for 2nd to 5th graders. Now I had to think about how to appeal to middle schoolers. I took a look at what we already had for those in middle school, tore it apart and combined it with my Kid Firestopper. I also took into consideration that many of these young teens are babysitting their younger siblings. I made a new workbook and PowerPoint and presented it to 162 teens. To my surprise, the principal and teachers loved it.So what did I talk about you ask? Well, let me tell you; we talked about fire safety, home hazards, communication plans, and the all too important “how to call 9-1-1.” I asked the classes to be honest with me and in return I would be honest with them. I asked them if they played with matches and lighters, and parents read up, they all said “YES!” I then encouraged them to practice fire drills at home with their siblings, check their home for hazards, taught them how to properly call 9-1-1, and encouraged them not to play with lighters and matches. I made them realize that they had a big responsibility of caring for their siblings, and they were looking up to them.
Well, I could tell you more, but for now I'm going to say, "to be continued in 2014..."
Veronica Lases AmeriCorps NPRC MemberPreparedness Coordinator
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services