ORLANDO, Fla. – After the Pulse tragedy, the local PBS affiliate WUCF launched a program to help children and their families deal with tough situations, like community emergencies.
It’s called Meet the Helpers and offers an online tool kit geared toward children ages 3-8.
“We had a lot of families reach out to WUCF and PBS as a whole about, ‘How do we talk to children about this terrible thing that happened in our community?’ We know children are watching the news, kind of observing their parents, especially when storm preps are happening, and a lot of times they freak out or get scared or worry about what’s to come,” said Jennifer Cook, general manager of WUCF TV and FM.
Families can visit the organization’s website and watch short videos about community helpers they might encounter during a hurricane or some other emergency.
“So we actually see the 911 operator. Children have actually shown in our research like a 25% increase in knowledge of what a 911 operator does. So we are actually helping kids understand how these community helpers can help you,” Cook said. “Children may have been scared of a firefighter beforehand, but after watching these videos, (they) have a much more positive reaction. So the research is really trending in that direction.”
She said they’re even featuring three to five minute videos on the ins and outs of what first responders like firefighters do, how they can help you and how you can help them.
According to Cook, while the program was developed with education specialists at the University of Central Florida, the videos air on PBS affiliates all over the nation.
“You know Meet the Helpers really did just start from a little station initiative that we thought would be helpful here. And to see it grow the way it has, I don’t think anyone could have predicted it. But we are continually getting requests to make it bigger and better and larger and try to make apps and try to do some other things with that and we are always pushing the envelope,” Cook said.
The online platform also teaches children how to become helpers as well as how to make a plan for an emergency. Cook said training both in the classroom and via Zoom is available for educators. For more information, contact WUCF here.