Helping children and families process their trauma after disaster

“Camp Noah was an amazing experience. It was so special to see kids have fun, meet new friends and learn about themselves. It was such an important resource so soon after the tornados in our area.” – Emily Hooker, Associate Director of Ferncliff; Director of the Camp Noah

In the spring of 2023, tragedy struck as tornadoes swept through eastern and central regions of Arkansas. Pulaski County was hit by an EF-3 tornado with peak winds of 165 mph. Approximately 2,700 structures were damaged, and 60,000 homes lost power. Many people were injured, with a few fatalities. In Cross County, a separate supercell spawned another EF-3 tornado. The storm obliterated structures, destroyed homes and caused fatalities.

Children’s mental health was also adversely affected. In the wake of the devastating tornados, the Ferncliff organization embarked on a mission to help children and families process their trauma and build resiliency for long-term recovery.

With the support of a grant from CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund, Ferncliff implemented a series of activities to provide much-needed support to vulnerable and underserved populations affected.

The heart of their initiative was Camp Noah, a program of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. The program was designed for elementary school-age children whose homes, neighborhoods or communities had sustained damage during the tornado. Dedicated Ferncliff staff and volunteers collaborated to provide a nurturing environment using materials and curriculum provided by Camp Noah.

With support from CDP funding, Ferncliff also offered scholarships to their trauma-informed summer program. These scholarships enabled 27 campers, including 13 Camp Noah participants, to attend day camps and overnight camps at Ferncliff. As families faced financial strain, the generosity of the scholarship program gave children the opportunity to heal and grow.

Camp Noah and Ferncliff scholarship recipients reported increased resiliency, a stronger sense of identity, improved interpersonal skills, and a connection with nature. After a week of camp, one young camper shared, “I learned it’s easy for me to make friends.”

Parents were relieved that the Camp Noah experience and Ferncliff camp sessions helped their children recover from the trauma of the storm while fostering their independence. Families also expressed gratitude for the opportunity for their kids to enjoy a fun experience, relieving some of the financial burdens faced in the aftermath of the disaster.

Ferncliff was also able to purchase essential supplies for creating disaster assistance kits. With the assistance of mission teams and volunteers, they assembled an inventory of these kits, ensuring a swift response to future disasters.

“The replenished Disaster Assistance Center inventory was crucial, having been significantly depleted in the aftermath of the tornado.” – Joel Gill, Ferncliff Executive Director

CDP is proud to partner with Ferncliff and support their profound impact on their community. With their dedication and support, they helped children and families in Arkansas rebuild their lives after a devastating disaster and nurtured hope, resiliency and a sense of community that will endure for years.

Story by Juanicia Crump

Photo: Camp Noah (Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota), Westover Hills Presbyterian Church, Ferncliff. Credit: Emily Hooker, Ferncliff Camp