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Youth Creating Disaster Recovery: update from Robin Cox

Check out the latest activities of the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery research project with their latest newsletteras they work with disaster affected youth in Joplin.

The YCDR team led by Dr. Robin Cox, School of Humanitarian Studies, RRU and her colleague Dr. Lork Peek from Colorado State University (CSU), and including RRU doctoral students Cheryl Heykoop (RRU) and Jennifer Tobin-Gurley (CSU) traveled to Joplin from June 10-15, 2013. While there, they hosted a series of creative workshops with youth affected by the 2011 EF5 tornado that devastated Joplin and killed more than 158 people. The goal of the workshops was to provide high school students with an opportunity to use creative methods to explore and share their disaster recovery process. In addition, we worked together to brainstorm ways that youth can reach out to other disaster affected communities.

Over four days, hosted by the YMCA in Joplin, we worked with 13 students who participated in 1-2 workshop sessions. These included team building and trust exercises, photo exploration activities, photo and video story production, and several other creative methods designed to evoke discussion regarding youth recovery after the Joplin tornado.

We were so impressed by the enthusiasm, courage, wisdom, and creativity of the youth who participated. While each person contributed a unique perspective to the project, adding to the depth and complexity of disaster recovery for youth, there were also many common and powerful threads in the stories we heard.

During the workshops we conducted in Joplin, we gathered audio and video recordings as well as photographs to document the daily sessions. We are still in the process of organizing and analyzing all the data we collected, but some key themes have emerged:

  1. It is clear that youth have the capacity to help their community during and after a disaster. They also have a great desire to help youth in other communities who have experienced a disaster.
  2. Young people are creative and passionate. It is important to open up spaces for them to express themselves in the ways that are most comfortable for them.
  3. Young people who survived the 2011 Joplin tornado have experienced many changes in their lives—some difficult, others quite positive. The impacts of the tornado continue to unfold during the recovery period, but the youth have found creative ways to adapt and respond.
  4. Joplin youth have used music, writing, and art to process their experiences of the 2011 tornado. They continue to look for ways to share their stories and insights with peers and the larger community.

The project continues in Joplin and Slave Lake Alberta over the next two years and will include interactive exhibits of youth participant's photo-story projects and a website with more information about the research results, helpful information for supporting youth in disasters and disaster recovery, and social media supported spaces for youth affected by disasters to connect with each other.