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Recovering Together

Camp Discovery – named by putting the words Disaster and Recovery together – served families affected by Harvey and participating in counseling services through our Harvey Case Management Program.  It was a wonderful weekend retreat!  The families participated in typical camp activities like archery, horseback riding, nature, and a ropes course, as well as “team huddles” – mental health-focused break-out sessions for parents, teens, big kids, and little kids.

Harvey blog 3.JPGCamp Discovery was just one mental health support service made possible by the grants from Americares, Save the Children, and the Houston Harvey Relief Fund.  Through these grants, our team of case managers, mental health clinicians, financial stability coaches, and technology experts – impacted over 3000 families affected by Hurricane Harvey.

In late October a team of Easter Seals staff and volunteers hosted and facilitated a camp for families impacted by Hurricane Harvey at Camp For All.  Since then we have continued to serve people with disabilities and veterans through Harvey recovery and are proud to be a recipient of continued funding from The Mayor’s Fund and Enterprise / Heart so that we can continue in our efforts through housing assistance now. The experiences and memories made were more than words can describe. I will try my best to express what I witnessed and the successes I saw. Most of the families that attended our Camp Discovery shared that this was their first time having an experience like this, all together as a family unit, away from electronics, and in tune with the elements. Many shared that they were able to try things that they had never done before such as fishing, canoeing, zip-lining, horseback riding, and being able to interact and learn about new animals.harvey blog

There was awe and surprise from the very beginning.  When one family saw the retreat that would be their home for the weekend, one boy said, “This is the nicest place we’ve ever stayed!”  And the shyness of the families with each other dissipated very quickly.  By the close of the first night, just hours after having met, they were dancing together and enjoying s’mores around the campfire.

We had several little ones try out the tall rock climbing wall to later zip-line down. Two of our participants got “stuck” near the top of their goal and were ready to give up. Tears were shed and panic set in a bit as the goal to reach the top seemed unachievable and scary so high up from the ground. One mother became concerned but with support from the mental health team was able to turn her panic into words of encouragement. The mother, alongside the other campers, cheered on Jeffery and provided guidance on stabilizing his footing so that he could pull himself up to the ledge. Jeffery was successful and enthusiastically moved on to the next challenge- zip-lining back down.

One of our younger campers also struggled near the top of his rock wall experience, but he had climbed the wall alongside his mother and she was able to provide one on one support in the moment. The support staff watched in amazement at this mother’s immediate instinct to provide reassurance and support to our brave camper while also allowing him to do all the work to get himself up.

harvey blog 2Most of the weekend, I heard parents express how amazed they were about their children and their brave efforts to try out new things and face some of their fears.

The families shared how they surprised themselves with courage and willingness to try new things.

Many of the mothers commented that a win and success for the weekend was not having to cook while also enjoying all the activities with the family.

One mom, whose house had to be totally gutted, said that they had not put up any pictures yet.  She said the frames of family photos given at camp were going to be the very first frames they put up.

Another family reminded us that the camp experience brought back similar experiences from Harvey such as staying in a different place, eating food that was not “our own”, and adjusting to a different routine, but that camp opened the space to rewrite that story and make new fun memories with the family.

Erica Toskovich, LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Mental Health Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston 

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Harvey Recovery Thank Yous!

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At a Loss After #Harvey

This is the first time in many of years that “Ericka” just didn’t know what to do…

Being a single mother of three girls; a 23-year-old, recent college graduate, and two nine month old babies, I started to feel hopeless. After all that has happened to me, how was I going to get back up and make life normal for us again?

Things happened to me beyond my control, things I never thought would happen to me over a two-year period of time. After finding out I was pregnant with twins (2016), 3 days later I was laid off of my job as a Certified Fourth Grade Math and Science Teacher. Then the babies were born prematurely and they were hospitalized for a couple of months. Twin A had a little more problems than Twin B in regards to her growth and other challenges, something I was far from being prepared to handle. What else could possibly happen were the thoughts that were running through my head. I shouldn’t have ever thought that, because Hurricane Harvey hit and it only got worse.

Hurricane Harvey left me in the state of devastation incurring damages to my home, as well as not being able to successfully move forward with the daycare that I had found, after being laid off as a teacher and during a new job search.

Easter Seals Greater Houston and it’s Harvey Recovery Program gave me hope not only by helping me monetarily, but also with counseling and encouragement. I reached out to them this year when the twins were hospitalized for two weeks. After FEMA denied me  and my homeowner’s insurance only covered things that were damaged by the wind, I felt like giving up. But Krystle, a case manager/counselor with the Easter Seals Harvey Recovery Program, was like an angel sent by God while in the hospital with my twins. She really encouraged me, gave me hope and made me see clear that things will get better.

With the help of Easter Seals, I was able to catch up on bills that have fallen behind due to the hurricane as well as get counseling services for myself due to the events that have taken place over a course of time. Coming from being a teenage single mother and being self-sufficient, it took a great deal for me to reach out to even ask for help for my situation. However, Krystle made me feel comfortable and Easter Seals has helped me so that I may pick my life back up and move forward in a new direction.

I am extremely grateful for this organization and the mission it has set in place to help people like me.

For more information on our #Harvey Recovery Program – http://eastersealshouston.org/Programs/emergency-harvey-assistance.html

We couldn’t have done it without the help of so many! Check out our #HarveyHeroes

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