Even though I’m not from West Virginia, I still notice when issues from where I live are the same as ones here. I know there are differences between rural and urban environments, but there are some commonalities. Throughout my college experience at WVU, I have been exposed to information on a lot of different health issues West Virginians face. Two that have stuck out to me are the opioid crisis and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). These are things I see in all types of environments. Both have affected me in my personal life, directly and indirectly.
As I had to think about what project I wanted to do for my capstone project to finish my undergraduate degree, I had a few ideas but ran into issues. The site was too far, they weren’t taking students for anything this semester, etc. Then I ran into Think Kids. I’m friends with someone on their Board of Directors so I knew what they were about. Then, I saw a project they were working on. Needless to say, my interest was piqued. I saw the project was about helping kids in the midst of the opioid crisis. I never saw them as a group affected by this issue so I was intrigued.
I met with Kelli Caseman who described the project to me. She basically told me how sometimes kids have to provide for themselves in terms of food and hygiene as their parents/caretakers cannot. So, some schools have pantries or hygiene closets for students to grab supplies, basic necessities, to take care of themselves. I signed on for this project and subsequently received tasks. As I’m writing this I am gathering emails and contact information for 6 school districts to send a survey to, asking if they have these services for kids, why, and why not. I then plan to do some data management and reporting.
My main goal is that people see why this is an issue and why we need these resources for kids. Those who are technically responsible for these kids cannot take care of them, as they’re walking through their own struggles. Of course, I’m not blaming these individuals. The point is that kids are affected by this and shouldn’t be left behind. At my university, I’m a resident assistant, and I was telling a resident of mine about this project. She’s from WV and told me how she had to learn to cook for her and her siblings when she was 5 years old because her parents were struggling with substance abuse. I can’t help but feel angry like I wish she had a resource at her school to grab food items easy for her to prepare for her and her siblings; instead, she risked injuries trying to learn how to use a stove at 5 years old.
If you’re still reading this, I want to thank you for your time. I want to thank you for caring about these kids as I do.
Here is how you can help me and Think Kids:
- Send the name and (possibly) email address of the nurse at your child’s school to email@example.com. Just put in the subject line that you’re providing information about the project for us.
Again, thank you. It truly means the world.
Cassie Bambrick is a WVU SPH student and working with Think Kids during this semester.