Project Friendship Proposal
The purpose of Project Friendship is to provide high school student support and friendship through high school Friendship Support Ambassadors who use online technology (e.g. e-mail, Zoom, Google Meet) to connect with similar age Friendship Frontline Ambassador high school students living in an area affected by disaster (e.g. war, earthquake, fire, etc.). There is extensive research demonstrating that friendship and personal support build resilience during disasters.
Friendship Ambassadors living in an area experiencing disaster will be known as Frontline Friendship Ambassadors because they are on the front lines where a disaster has taken place. Friendship Ambassadors not living in a disaster area will be called Support Friendship Ambassadors. Each Frontline Friendship Ambassador will be paired with a Support Friendship Ambassador based on age, gender, and personal interests. Each week during the project period (February 1 – June 1, 2024) the Friendship Ambassadors will form a “pen pal” friendship through the exchange of emails (and other electronic communication). The topics for conversation and sharing will be school, music, sports, hobbies, and other personal interests. Friendship Ambassadors will be encouraged to avoid topics dealing with politics, grief, and loss. The goal of Project Friendship is for high school students who are living in a safe, non-disaster area to provide friendly conversation and support for high school students living with a disaster.
Friendship Ambassadors will be expected to spend about 20-30 minutes a week communicating with their Friendship Ambassador partner. Once a month all the Friendship Ambassadors will meet on zoom for 1 hour to meet each other and discuss the project, and receive some training in stress reduction.
Project Friendship is sponsored by The Disastershock Global Response Team (DGRT), an international humanitarian relief organization dedicated to providing free coping resources to children and families affected by disaster-related stress. We are an all volunteer organization with members from 20 different countries. When a disaster – whether natural or human caused - occurs, our goal is to provide practical resources on how to cope with disaster-related stress. Because children are particularly affected by disaster, we seek effective ways to bring resources to parents and schools. The Disastershock Global Response Team is a Special Interest Group of the Oxford Symposium in School-Based Family Counseling, which is sponsored by the Institute for School-Based Family Counseling, a 501C3 California not-for profit charity. We are a secular, non-sectarian, non-political organization. Our values are very similar to Doctors Without Borders.
Administration of the project would be provided by the DGRT Ambassador Program. The Disastershock Ambassador Program is designed to give high school students from around the world an opportunity to participate as interns in the Disastershock Global Response Team (DGRT). DGRT Ambassadors are high school volunteers who, with parental permission, contribute 1-2 hours a week helping provide free psychological first aid to persons affected by disaster. The internship is primarily a virtual internship conducted through the internet (through zoom meetings, email exchange, and internet research).
Phase 1 of the project will be carried out during the period February 1 - May 25, 2024 and involve a minimum of 20 volunteers (e.g. 10 Frontline Ambassadors and 10 Support Ambassadors) from:
High School students in the disaster area (e.g. Jewish and Arab High School Students)
Current DGRT Ambassadors (e.g. at Arcata High School and at Dominican High School, Harare,
Rotary Interact Club members at Arcata High School, Arcata, California*
Teachers and students at participating schools in Israel will be invited to help co-design Project Friendship.
At the conclusion of the project, interested Friendship Ambassadors may apply to become Disastershock Ambassadors.
Project Friendship Coordination Team Members
Gertrude Baera, Teacher: Dominican High School, Harare, Zimbabwe
Brian Gerrard, PhD, Interact Adviser: Rotary Club of Niagara Falls; Co-Director: Disastershock Global
Response Team; Chief Academic Officer, Western Institute for Social Research, Berkeley Eileen Klima, MA, LMFT, School Counselor: Arcata High School; Director: Disastershock Ambassador Program; Member: School Family Therapy Topical Interest Group, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Taylor Nada, Interact Club member: Arcata High School; Disastershock Ambassador
Nurit Kaplan Toren, PhD, Director: Graduate Leadership Program, Oranim College of Education, Tivon, Israel; Senior Editor: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium in School-Based Family Counseling
TBA: A teacher and a student representative from a participating frontline school.