COHI Summer Kickoff Events in California, Oklahoma, and Texas!

We’ve got some great events coming up in the next two weeks to start the summer! Come on out and join us!


Venice, CA

If you or anyone you know happens to be on the West coast this weekend, celebrate the first day of summer with the Venice Love Shack in Venice, CA! They will be hosting the first ever Venice Music Crawl this weekend and proceeds will go to benefit COHI! This should be an amazing event with food and live music at several different venues. Please head out, get some sun, shake your booty, and support moms and babes!

When: Saturday, June 22nd from 1-8 PM, all ages, $10 donation
Where: Venice Love Shack, 2121 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA


Moore, OK

COHI is also hosting a “stress-relief” day for the women of Moore, OK, next Monday, June 24th. This event is open to the public and will include generous volunteers who are offering their time and expertise to provide free massage, acupuncture, and manicures! There will be snacks provided by our wonderful corporate sponsors, Clif Bar, McAllister’s Deli, and Hideaway Pizza. It’s just been amazing to see the community and our supporters rally around this cause! If you or anyone you know will be in central Oklahoma next Monday, please stop by and partake in some much-needed stress relief!

When: Monday, June 24th from 12-5pm
Where: Moore Public Library, 225 S Howard Ave, Moore, OK


ImageAustin, TX

Are you a mom? Well then come out and join other mamas at the MomCom Summer Camp! MomCom started as a conference but is quickly becoming a resource for women in the areas of motherhood, entrepreneurship, and community building. Come and be welcomed into the motherhood community by our founder, Sera Bonds, who will be giving the keynote speech on Mothering as Political Action. Donate $100 to COHI using this link and receive FREE admission to the event! | More info

When: Saturday, June 29 at 9:30am
Where: Oaks Event Center, 2008 Brandt Rd, Austin, TX

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The Sun Amongst The Rubble

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I get off the bus in Moore with a group of blue-shirted volunteers from Chesapeake Energy Company. It’s 1:30pm. Hot. Sunny. I walk down a street, what used to be a neighborhood street. Now on both sides of me there remain only the skeletons of houses and heaps of rubble taller than I am. Up ahead I see people. Three women sitting in the middle of the street. They are smiling.

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They are watching a bulldozer demolish their house.

What strikes me about these women is how jovial they are. They are laughing and talking, joking and rubbing suntan lotion on their arms. It’s like they’re at a football game, or out at the park. I learn they are three generations of Oklahoma – born and bred. Joan, or “Gran” as she calls herself, is the matriarch of the trio. Her daughter, Lynn, is the owner of the now-defunct house on the corner, while Lynn’s daughter, Shannon, lives in Oklahoma City. As I am talking with Gran, Lynn suddenly jumps up and disappears behind the pile of rubble. A few minutes later we see her reemerge – inside the bulldozer! What a great release it must be to just unleash anger, frustration and fear through the long arms of a giant metal robot. When she finally reappears at the makeshift lawn-chair outpost, she plops down, tired, and exclaims that she got the dresser and the mattress!

This is not their first rodeo. As native Oklahomans, they have survived the bulls-eye of more than one tornado. Lynn’s home was destroyed for the first time in 2003. That’s when she moved here. After the bulldozer has cleared her land, she says, she’ll rebuild. Yep, right on that same spot. She loves the park behind the neighborhood, which right now looks like no more than a mess of strewn limbs over puddles of mud and grass. But the trees are alive, she assures me, and they will heal.

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And so will these women. And the other women I talked to today in Moore. They are sending us messages from wherever they have scattered to since their homes were destroyed – homes of friends, relatives, hotels, gymnasiums – that they are fighting, and they need our help, not our pity. And we hear them! We are responding. You can even help respond… by posting, texting and emailing the women’s health needs assessment that COHI is conducting to your friends and relatives.

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1269946/COHI-Women-s-Health-Assessment

Every woman that we hear from gives us vital information and helps guide us to respond to the needs of these beautiful women in their time of courage. So please share this link liberally. It takes 10 minutes to fill out and will contribute immensely to the longterm recovery needs of these women who deserve our help.

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In light, love, and laughter 🙂

Michelle Jones, CPM, LM
COHI
Moore, Oklahoma

It’s Not Over Yet

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Tom Gilbert/Associated Press

Fourteen more people died in Oklahoma last Friday. It doesn’t seem that the news is covering it as heavily as they covered the Moore tornado, but the lives are just as important. As I make my way north toward Norman again, the tension seems to mount. My family and friends ask me where I’m staying, just in case something happens and they can’t get ahold of me, they say. I’m not really nervous about heading back up to tornado alley, even while the week’s forecast shows thunderstorms for four days in a row, I think. But my dreams suggest a different story. Last night I dreamt of a tornado, of course, and me huddled with my family as my mother went to the bed to get a mattress to cover us. That was pretty much the entirety of the dream; there was no definitive ending. Pretty common with dreams. But it does make me think I might have some uncertainty, some amount of fear, even if I’m not admitting it to myself.

This begs the question: if I am experiencing this level of anxiety, not even ever having experienced a tornado, what must the survivors of the Oklahoma tornadoes be experiencing? What must their friends, neighbors and relatives be feeling? As more storms burn through Oklahoma’s heart, more destruction ensues, and more lives are lost, how are they coping? Does the rumble of thunder now make their heart skip a beat? Does a lightning flash bring back memories that they wish they could bury? In the words of one of our volunteers, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, “I talked to one woman who was absolutely overwhelmed by the prospect of having to make a home again.  Why bother to decorate when it will all get blown away again?, she wondered.  Rough.”

As COHI continues our women’s health needs assessment in Oklahoma, some preliminary conclusions can already begin to be made about women’s need for health services. At the top of this list: mental health needs are in great demand. Some volunteers are reporting that while in the days immediately following the tornadoes on May 18-20, women would often talk about the needs of their children, they are now beginning to talk more about their own need for emotional support. There is a documented increase in violence against women and children in times of emergency. And as sad as it sounds, this makes sense.  According to the same volunteer cited above, “children have lots of resources for working things through: talking, drawing, imaginative play. But adults have many fewer of such means to process trauma, so they take it out on themselves and those around them, so children get re-traumatized.” And women do too.

COHI has experience working with women and women’s counselors concerning trauma. So, one of the goals of me going back to Oklahoma this week is to assess the need for COHI to provide some of this training. It may just be a question of making sure that the existing services are actually getting to the women who need them. That is why COHI is conducting this women’s health assessment. The assessment is a road map. And it will tell us, and the rest of the relief community, how to fill the gaps, and more importantly, how to strengthen women’s health care, making it even better than it was before.

Yours,

Michelle Jones, CPM, LM
COHI
Dallas, TX

An Update from Oklahoma

Deidre is a resident of Moore, OK. She lived in one of the neighborhoods that was demolished by the tornado. Luckily, she had a safe house and was not harmed (she already had the crutches before the storm!). Looking at the house, you can see that she was indeed grateful for the safe house.

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Deidre was trying to recover what she could from the wreckage when we started talking with her. She had only the clothes on her back and we were able to give her some underwear. Just down the street, the South Baptist church has been turned into another distribution center.

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Julie and Carolyn are some wonderful volunteers giving their time to organize the clothing and supplies coming in on an hourly basis. They were grateful to receive COHI’s donation and vowed it would make it to the women who need it.

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Our team of COHI volunteers will be out in the community starting tomorrow, and will be assessing women’s health needs for the following one to two weeks. They are an amazing bunch of women who are already committed to making this assessment a useful one that will serve the women in this area. We will be working closely with them to organize the data as it comes in and then it will be shared among organizations involved in the recovery process. It will be a crucial piece of information that will guide us as we help rebuild this part of our country.

I am back in Texas now and have been spent emotionally and physically. Some rest is in order! I hope you all enjoy a lovely Memorial Day weekend. Until next week!

In gratitude,

Michelle Jones
COHI
Dallas, TX

The Long Road Home

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Today I spent a lot of time talking with people about the long road to recovery here in Oklahoma. In the days following any disaster, people often feel called to help in any way they can. Volunteers, supplies, money – they all come pouring in (hopefully). It is a week, a month, and a year later that the families who suffered are still in need of help, but the media has stopped covering the story, and the public has moved on to other things. It is that time that we need to be focused on. Right now, Oklahoma is awash in aid. It has come from every corner of the country. In two weeks time it will be a completely different story.

Today our donors dollars bought underwear, bras and flashlights for the women here. After a survey of the distribution centers, these were the items that were most in need, but in short supply. Volunteer leaders told me that as soon as a bra would come in, it would go right back out the door. They couldn’t keep up the stock. So that is where COHI put your gracious offerings. 

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We want to make sure that we provide help where, when and how it is needed. To that end, we have also organized a team of volunteers who will be meeting tomorrow morning to learn how to conduct a women’s health needs assessment. This assessment will be crucial to the recovery process and will help organizations aiding in the recovery to know exactly what women need and how they need it. We can’t fix something until we know it’s broken. And we can’t fill gaps in this process until we know where they are.

As I go to bed tonight, I think about the thousands of Oklahomans who are sleeping in temporary shelters. They don’t know where they will go tomorrow or how they will rebuild their lives or their livelihoods. There is almost a palpable sadness in the air. You can see it on people’s faces as they tell you about their best friend who lost their home, a friend of a friend who lost their life, another friend of a friend who lost their baby. Everybody here knows someone who was affected.

But in the midst of the darkness, I will send a ray of sunshine your way. Tomorrow the city of Moore will be opened up again. It has been closed to visitors due to power lines and dangerous debris, as well as to allow first responders to do their jobs without onlookers getting in the way. But tomorrow at dawn it will open again. And there will be volunteers there, from dawn till dusk, giving their time for free to haul out the garbage, to give hugs and solace, and to help the residents of Moore rebuild their city and their lives. And that is beautiful!

In love and light,

Michelle Jones
COHI
Norman, Oklahoma

Helping in the Heartland

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A mother shops for baby clothes at a free store on the OU campus in Norman, OK. This store has been set up for the residents of Moore so they can shop for basic essentials that were lost in the tornadoes.

My first few hours in Oklahoma have been a whirlwind. I would say Norman is in a state of “positive chaos”. We are 9 miles away from the destruction in Moore, and the traffic is horrible. Interstate 35, which connects Norman to Moore, is backed up bumper-to-bumper all the way. Other relief workers I spoke with are saying that the 9 mile trip can take upwards of 2 hours. The makeshift distribution and housing centers, set up in churches, schools, and businesses all over town, remind me of disturbed anthills. People are scurrying in every direction. Some are organizing temporary housing for the displaced to stay. Some are organizing other volunteers. Some are grilling hot dogs and handing them out. Some are giving out free massages! Every person, in their own unique way, is working to bring relief to their neighbors from the town just next door.

Of course, we at COHI are working to bring aid to the women and children, as we do. Although we arrived late this afternoon, we have already visited two of the main relief sites here in Norman. Tomorrow we will speak with midwives, first responders, relief agencies, and the women themselves, to get a sense of what the real need is here. The people of Oklahoma, and Americans from all over the county, have been immensely generous in donating their time and supplies. The response is positively amazing to see. It makes me realize very deeply that, yes, it really is possible to put aside all differences, all disagreement, and just help each other. And although we are in the wake of a tornado, it doesn’t have to take destruction and suffering for people to lay aside their differences and just help one another. We can do it any day. Anytime. Anywhere. We can give a little or we can give a lot. We can give our own unique thing. There is always a way to help.

So as I say goodnight, I will leave you with that to ponder. It has been quite a day. Stay tuned in the days to come to see more on how COHI is contributing our own unique brand of help here in the heartland.

Blessings,

Michelle Jones
COHI
Norman, Oklahoma