Project Description and Goals

On May 16, 2011, winds gusting to 100 km/hr drove a devastating fire into the community of Slave Lake, forcing a community-wide evacuation. Although there were no deaths or injuries, 40% of the town was destroyed including the town hall, library, main shopping mall, and 374 homes.

On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado (the highest magnitude on the Fujita scale) swept across Joplin, Missouri. Over 160 people died in the tornado and 990 were injured. Nearly one-quarter of the city of Joplin was destroyed, including the complete devastation of over 2,000 buildings. Joplin High School, the only major high school in the city, was flattened.

The goal of this research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, is to engage disaster-affected youth, their parents, and the communities of Slave Lake, Alberta and Joplin, Missouri in a participatory action research project focusing on youth recovery after the wildfire and tornado. This study will empower youth through research and contribute to the development of youth-inclusive approaches to disaster recovery. We will use creative methods designed to engage youth collaboratively and creatively in individual and shared meaning making. This project will contribute to an understanding of the ways in which social, economic, and personal factors influence disaster vulnerability among youth and their capacity to recover and contribute to long-term individual and community resilience.

Specific Aims

The project will explore the following research questions:

  1. What is the story of recovery for youth in Slave Lake and Joplin?
  2. How did youth contribute to helping the community, and each other, move forward after the wildfire and tornado?
  3. What people, places, spaces, and activities have been most important for youth in recovery?
  4. How were the needs of youth met and unmet in the recovery process?
  5. What are the most important changes since the disaster for youth, families, schools, and community?
  6. What advice do youth have for others who have experienced a disaster and are working to recover?

Timeline

This project will span three years. During this time, we will engage youth in multiple workshops to creatively explore disaster recovery from their perspective. In January 2013, we made our first trip to Joplin where we:

  1. Met with and conducted formal and informal interviews with over 40 people.
  2. Went on a driving tour to see the damage, the rebuilding progress, and the beautiful way that art is being used to help heal the community.
  3. Visited the 9/10 and 11/12 temporary high school campuses.
  4. Met with representatives from community organizations that work with children and youth.
  5. Spoke with inspiring young people and received feedback on the design of the project.

In May, 2013 we made our first trip to Slave Lake where we:

  1. Met with and conducted formal and informal interviews with over 30 people in Slave Lake.
  2. Visited local schools and the school board to explore possibilities of working together in the future.
  3. Went on a driving tour of Slave Lake to see the fire damage, the rebuilding progress, and the beautiful landscape.
  4. Visited local organizations including the Boreal Centre, the Native Friendship Centre, and the Slave Lake Fieldhouse and Arena.
  5. Met with representatives from community organizations that work with children and youth.
  6. Spoke with inspiring young people and received feedback on our project design.

On June 10-15, the YCDR team hosted a series of creative workshops with youth in Joplin. The goal of the workshop was to invite students to use creative methods to explore disaster recovery and brainstorm ways that youth can reach out to other disaster affected communities. Each young person participated in 2 days of workshop activities, including team building and trust exercises, visual explorer, photo story, video, and other creative methods to begin a discussion of how young people experienced the Joplin Tornado.

Project Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue, 1 2013 (Joplin)

Volume 1, Issue, 2 2013 (Slave Lake)

Project Video

Funding

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) provided funding for the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery Project. SSHRC is a Canadian government research funding agency that promotes and supports world-leading postsecondary-based research and training initiatives in the humanities and social sciences. Learn more at: http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/home-accueil-eng.aspx

 

 

Project Team Members

Robin Cox, Royal Roads University

Lori Peek, Colorado State University

Shelley Pacholok, University of British Columbia

Jennifer Tobin-Gurley, Colorado State University

Cheryl Heykoop, Royal Roads University

Christopher Lyon, Royal Roads University

Danielle Barker, Oklahoma State University