Wednesday, November 4, 2020

“Three Questions” with Deepti Bherwani

By Chris Pyo, American Red Cross in Greater NY

"Three Questions” is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers, and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our different programs and get to know those who make this work possible.

Deepti Bherwani is a Marketing Program Manager with the American Red Cross in Greater NY who also volunteers as a Disaster Responder, helping residents, including young children, impacted by local disasters in the region. Spurred on by this volunteer work, Deepti, a mother of a five-year-old boy, recently spearheaded the development of a new supply kit specifically geared towards children. In our conversation with her below she discusses the importance of these ‘Kid Kits.’ 

First and foremost, what is a Kid Kit?

The American Red Cross Kid Kit is a new relief pack provided by Red Cross responders to help support children during times of emergency. Every day, our New York City chapter responds to the scene of five to 20 local disasters, most often home fires. At the scene, the Red Cross provides emergency relief to these families, and with this new program, Red Cross responders will distribute “Kid Kits” to families with young children impacted by disasters. The kits, appropriate for kids ages 1 through 10, include a drawstring bag, coloring book, crayons, stress ball, stuffed animal, puzzles, and other items of that nature, in order to help distract these children from the events happening around them. 

How did you come up with the idea?

On one particular response where I went to a home fire, we went to this multi-story building. My Red Cross colleagues and I went to assess the damage on the different floors. While I was going through the rooms and doing our disaster evaluation, there was a room with toys, figurines, and everything was burnt and soaked with water. At that moment, I was trying to assess the situation and sort of absorb everything. Later, I found out there was a 7 or 8-year-old child whose mother was at work at the time of the disaster. He was very restless – really wanted to go in and get his toys, and he asked us for something to play with. We carry stuffed animals to distribute whenever we go into the field and encounter children, but this kid was 7 or 8. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anything else to offer him. Of course, we assisted the family with housing, emergency funds and other assistance, but when I got back home, one thing that came into my mind at the time was that it took the family many years to collect everything in their household, and all of a sudden, it’s all gone. That includes all the toys that belonged to the little boy, that I saw burnt and drenched. That's when I thought of the Kid Kit idea.

Can you speak more specifically about the unique impact home fires have on kids?

There are two important factors to consider. First, the child has often lost everything to a fire or other disaster. Second, the parent is actually trying to process what has happened, so they need time to really think through their next steps, which the child is not allowing them to do because they’re also in need of attention. Since we cater to so many young children, we need to give them something more substantial. That's why I think the Kit Kits are so important.

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