Pillowcase Project – Preparing Students for Disasters

The American Red Cross and the GDPC, with sponsorship from Disney, are working to prepare school-age children at home and abroad for the next disaster. Building on nine years of successful Pillowcase Project implementation in cities across the United States, the GDPC has developed a model curriculum allowing Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies around the world to adapt the project for use in their own countries. Using pillowcases and other culturally appropriate containers to hold emergency items like flashlights and bottled water, Red Cross staff and volunteers will teach life-saving preparedness lessons to students around the world.

The Pillowcase Project curriculum consists of a 60-minute classroom presentation, given by Red Cross staff and volunteers, about protective measures to take and coping strategies to employ before and during various locally-relevant disasters. A core component of the program is the emphasis placed on students sharing lessons learned with their families and communities after the presentation. Experience has shown that working through school children is an effective way to introduce critical preparedness skills to new generations and contribute to broader community resilience goals. 

In the United States, during a 45-minute classroom presentation, Red Cross staff and volunteers show students the kinds of items they should put in their pillowcase and have with them if they have to leave home following a disaster. Items include flashlights, water, extra clothing and other comfort items. In the same presentation, they share key skills for coping with the stresses of disasters and teach students about protective measures to take during a disaster that is locally prominent, like an earthquake or tornado. The classroom setting, short time period of the lesson and the fun, hands-on aspect of the pillow case present an important opportunity for adaptation and expansion to other areas of the world.

Since 2014, the GDPC has piloted The Pillowcase Project internationally in six countries—Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom and Vietnam—as both a stand-alone preparedness activity and a complementary tool to be combined with existing school-based disaster risk reduction programs. As implementation continues, the GDPC plans to conduct evaluations to examine the efficacy of the adapted tools, enabling the project to continuously improve and adapt. In its next phase, The Pillowcase Project plans to expand to an additional 15 countries, reaching at least 75,000 children aged 8 – 11.

Open idoc video in new window

About the iDoc:
This virtual toolkit of resources is created to guide Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies and the wider network of youth preparedness practitioners in implementing The Pillowcase Project.  The tools offer guidance of project adaptation through the shared experiences, stories, and advice of key piloting stakeholders.  Navigating the video sequences, you can learn the strategic thinking behind each Pillowcase Project team’s approach as they address the challenges and successes of their piloting process.  The first video offers an introduction to The Pillowcase Project’s international pilot and alignment within the global community.  The other videos highlight key project elements with additional resources linked to the topic discussed.  Selecting from a range of tools and hearing participants, you can gauge the best approach to integrating The Pillowcase Project within your specific context.

Related Content

The Pillowcase Project International Pilot: Peru Video Case Study
The Pillowcase Project International Pilot: Peru Video Case Study
By Bonnie Haskell
The Peru Red Cross piloted Mi Funda de Almohada in 2014 in 4 provinces at risk for and recently affe...
Handbook for a School-based Risk Reduction Initiative
Handbook for a School-based Risk Reduction Initiative
By Rebecca Zorn
This handbook presents basic content and tips for implementing a schoolbased risk reduction programm...