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Childcare Essential in Post-Tornado Recovery Process, Yet Often Overlooked

By Sandra Knispel | Published 05 May 2014 04:05pm | comments
The playground at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Tupelo is covered in debris after an EF3 tornado severely damaged the church.

Tupelo, May 5, 2015 -- After a disaster strikes, like the spade of recent tornados, schools receive immediate assistance to rebuild. But childcare centers often do not. Yet, as MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports, restoring nursery schools is not just important for the psychological well-being of small children – their parents’ economic welfare often depends on it.

“The tornado messed my school up," says Maya Ganaway, 4. Her nursery school at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church is closed after a tornado ripped through the church in west Tupelo, leaving it severely damaged. Her mother, 31-year-old Sarah Ganaway, is a single mom who is studying to be a nurse while working at night at Outback Steakhouse, until it, too, was hit by the EF3 tornado last Monday.

“Every day she’s woken up and asked if we’re going to school today," Ganaway says. "The past couple of days has been hard. She knows it was a tornado. And so I said, ‘It’ll be a little bit before we can go back.’ Reporter: “Short term, what’s your fix in terms of childcare?” Sarah replies, “Family and friends and myself with being out of work. So, we just take it one day at a time.”

Sitting in the less damaged youth room under the eves of the church’s administrative building, Stephanie Roland who heads the children’s weekday ministries, says she knows mothers are relying on the church’s childcare to be able to go to work.

“Right now we’re making plans to go somewhere else. That’s all we can do. We won’t be back in this building any time I can say," says Roland. "So what we need to do is to get back on our feet in an alternate location and we’ve had wonderful offers of help and space.”

Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais is the Mississippi Emergency team leader for the non-profit organization Save the Children. She’s trying to help Stephanie Roland get the church’s daycare program back on track.

“Schools receive emergency recovery assistance immediately to get them back up operational but childcare, which is so important to young children’s emotional well-being and growth and development, does not receive the same recovery assistance. They receive little to no recovery assistance after emergencies."

The lack of funds can quickly become a vicious cycle, says De Marrais.

“Families really struggle right after a disaster happens to find programs that are still standing, but families can’t recover economically even until they are able to get their children back in care," says De Marrais. "And children also need the support, the consistency and to get back in regular routines in order to support their emotional recovery after a scary event or disaster like a tornado.”

For 4-year-old Maya the problem is simple:

“I just want to see my school.”

She may get her wish – sort of. Stephanie Roland hopes that come next week they’ll be up and running again, albeit in a temporary location.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News.


The playground at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Tupelo is covered in debris after an EF3 tornado severely damaged the church.



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