Red Cross Volunteer Teaches The Pillowcase Project in Shelter

Story and photos by Greta Gustafson/American Red Cross

On her 17th Red Cross deployment, volunteer Sonia Johnson is taking extra care of the children in the Goldsboro, N.C. shelter. Johnson tries to do an activity with the kids every night, from coloring and crafts to The Pillowcase Project, a Red Cross disaster preparedness activity.

“It started in a shelter, why not bring it to a shelter?” said Johnson of teaching The Pillowcase Project to the kids. The disaster preparedness course targeted towards children began after college students carried their belongings to Red Cross


Johnson discusses disaster preparedness dressed as Wonder Woman.

shelters in pillowcases during Hurricane Katrina. The program now teaches students grades 3-5 about personal and family preparedness and safety skills, local hazards, and basic coping skills.


Though Johnson had to alter the program a bit to fit kids who were in the middle of a disaster instead of preparing for one, she said it was very beneficial in getting the children to begin sharing their stories.

One child told Johnson, “We lost our home because the water came in it,” and another nine-year old girl talked about not going back home because the house was condemned, fully understanding the meaning of the word long before her time.


Kids color their disaster pillowcases.

Johnson believed this open conversation was an important first step in the healing process for these kids she cares about so deeply.


“These kids are always going to be in my heart,” said Johnson affectionately. “I am always going to remember these kids.”


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