Ten-year-old Rebecca Hoosier survived the May 22, 2011, tornado while praying in her family’s bathroom.
For her, a week long day camp called Camp Noah has offered some relief from feeling unprepared in the event of disaster.
“I’m learning how to get over things,” said Rebecca, who spent three months in Texas after the storm while her parents worked to find a new home after theirs was destroyed.
“Right after the tornado, it was hard to move on and when I came here it was better, making my life easier and understanding more. (I’ve learned) how to be prepared for a tornado or natural disasters and to move on and be closer to God.”
Camp Noah is currently being held through Friday at Martin Luther School, 2616 Connecticut Ave., for first- through sixth-graders. Since the storm, Camp Noah has been held several times, including at Mount Hope Church, Eastmorland Elementary School and Bethany Presbyterian Church. The typical cost to run the camp is about $15,000 per week, but Falley said it has been offered free to Joplin children with the help of Lutheran Charities and other churches.
The program was started by Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota in 1997 after flooding around the Red River.
So far, about 85 area children have attended this week’s camp.
At Martin Luther, more than 70 percent of the students were affected by the storm, said Tiffany Falley, site coordinator for Camp Noah.
Each child is receiving a backpack filled with emergency supplies and quilts donated by churches from around the country.
Throughout the week, children are learning the story of Noah from the Bible and how he prepared for the great flood described in the book of Genesis. Using that story as the structure for the week, the children learn about how they can prepare for disaster and come to terms with what happened in Joplin.
“For a child, if they feel like they can have control over a situation, that helps them a lot,” Falley said.
“One of the biggest things we see in children is that they’re worried about what they need to do if this happens again. ‘What do I do if we have a flood or an earthquake?’ It might not even be another tornado. ‘What do I do if something bad happens again?’ It gives them a sense of security.”
Children receive information on emergency preparedness and relaxation techniques to help stay calm during storms among other activities. They also learn songs, play indoor and outdoor games, make craft projects and have story time with a man dressed as Noah.
“I think that it’s pretty fun and I’m enjoying Camp Noah,” said Courtney Brown, 10, of Joplin, who was not directly affected by the tornado but has heard about and seen the damage.
“If a tornado came, I’d know what to get. It’s sort of like a big storm, like what Noah went through, except his was in a big flood.”
Teachers for the camp say they see positive changes in the students throughout the week as they learn more and bond together.
“It’s just always been a really cool experience just to hear the kids’ stories and to see how much they grow and how they can push past it,” said Emily Hornburg, a fourth- and fifth-grade small group leader from Cape Girardeau.
“When they walk in on Monday morning it’s completely different from Friday and just how they’re able to cope better and they are willing to share, but also just be silly and be kids.”
Not too late
For additional information about Camp Noah or to register your child, call Tiffany Falley at 417-529-3186. The camp is open to any child in the area in first through sixth grade and is nondenominational.