What do the Red Cross and pillowcases have in common? Well, it’s not Florence Nightingale or hospital beds – it’s an innovative program designed to help students deal with emergency situations.

The Pillowcase Program 7

Mary Elton and Jill Chapple from Australian Red Cross visited our school last Friday to present the Pillowcase Program to our Year 3 students. This program helps children “prepare for, cope with and respond to emergencies.” Students were given a special pillowcase to decorate with items they would “Need” and “Want” in the event of an emergency requiring an evacuation. Through the discussion, and by practising “colour breathing”, students learned how to approach these emergency situations in a way which provides them with some degree of security and comfort.

The Pillowcase Program 8

Mary has been presenting the program to Year 3 and 4 students at a number of schools for the past 6 years, and I asked her what had motivated her to take on this role. She explained how she has worked with emergency services as a Red Cross representative over a number of years, which included going to evacuation centres when they were set up for emergencies (including the 2011 Margaret River bushfire.) At these centres, she noticed two things: that many people did not have a plan, and that there were always lots of kids. When she heard about the Pillowcase Program, it seemed a perfect fit, especially considering her training as a teacher.

She said,

“It seemed a simple idea to help give the kids a bit of certainty and control, and it could give their parents information which might be another tool to help them think about preparing for an emergency.”

When asked for a personal comment, Mary said,

“I love the way kids respond to the program so well. The interesting thing is that research tends to show that packing for someone else does not usually include packing what they want, and it’s rewarding to see that in recent years in Perth evacuation centres, kids have been turning up with pillowcases!”

The Pillowcase Program 9

Mary and Jill met at training all those years ago and they make a great team, sharing information and strategies with students as they equip them with coping strategies for difficult emergency situations.

This image gallery shows some of the pillowcases created in their recent Year 3 session.

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If you would like more information about the program, visit redcross.org.au/pillowcase

Written, photos and posted by D. Veary

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