LA Children's Museum Introduces Katrina Voices Storytelling Project And Exhibit

NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana Children’s Museum, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has introduced Katrina Voices, a storytelling project and exhibit now on display throughout August. Katrina Voices shares the reflections of 24 children from Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes who were ages 4 – 11 at the time of Hurricane Katrina, and today, are ages 14-21. Their individual stories portray journeys of personal growth, love and resilience ten years following Hurricane Katrina.

         “When disaster hits, the news coverage is generally delivered by and for adults,” said Julia Bland, CEO of the Louisiana Children’s Museum. “We wanted to hear the voices of our youngest citizens. Katrina Voices explores the experiences of young children, captured a decade later. The threads of community, family and hope that are woven throughout their stories are valuable insights for those of us who work with children and families.”

         The Katrina Voices storytelling project is presented as a 14-minute video that captures a unique and moving perspective of the Hurricane Katrina experience through the eyes of children who are now teenagers and young adults. Dr. Valerie Wajda-Johnston, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University School of Medicine, conducted more than 20 hours of interviews. The interviews revealed that, while the children of New Orleans and surrounding parishes faced great adversity and uncertainty following Hurricane Katrina, many emerged with a resiliency that has shaped their outlook, attitudes and ambitions for the future.

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         “Many of the young men and women who shared their stories recounted how important the support of the adults in their lives was, from maintaining as normal of a routine as possible, to giving them information about the loss and destruction in ways that they could handle and process as children,” said Dr. Valerie Wajda-Johnston. “They also shared a sense of hope about the future, for themselves and the city. Among other qualities, the support and future orientation contributed to the resiliency of these young adults.”

         In addition to the Katrina Voices featured video, Museum-goers can express their thoughts on New Orleans culture and the meaning of a resilient New Orleans and fill the Promise Tree with "leaves of hope" for the future.  An interactive map of the Greater New Orleans area, hand painted by local artist Katie Rafferty, invites visitors to add symbols of what is unique to region’s culture and nearby communities.

         “The approaching ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina gave the Louisiana Children’s Museum a chance to stop and reflect on how our community, our museum, and our lives have changed as a result of the storm, and how effectively we have invested in children,” said Bland. “Specifically, at the Louisiana Children’s Museum we have become more focused on the impact of trauma, in its many forms, on young children.”

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         Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and subsequent disasters changed the Museum’s course and approach to addressing community needs, particularly the social-emotional needs of young children.

         Today, the Louisiana Children’s Museum offers children memorable and often life-changing opportunities through its community work which is embedded daily in public schools and Head Start centers. Louisiana Children’s Museum community programs such as Play Power, Word Play, Literacy Pathways, Family Camp and Sensory Friendly Learning focus on early childhood development, resiliency building, family literacy, parenting and other critical life skills.

         In the 10 years following Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Children’s Museum has invested 26,835 hours of paid staff time to bring enrichment programs to students in public schools and children in Head Start centers.  Approximately 14,125 students have participated in the Museum’s Play Power program each week – at their school or center.  Moreover, approximately 34,590 books have been given to children for their personal libraries in concert with literacy programs involving parents and teachers. In 2015, the Louisiana Children’s Museum was awarded the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal for significant contributions to the community, innovative approaches to public service, and exceptional community outreach.

         These community commitments have also helped to shape the unprecedented concept of the Louisiana Children’s Museum’s Early Learning Village which will be located on eight and a half acres in New Orleans’ City Park. The new location, partnerships, and programs will help to address community needs such as access to services, parent education, and school readiness for young children. The Museum’s relocation plans include collaboration with on-location community partners as well as centers for parenting, literacy, nature, gardening, food service and community gathering places.

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