Skip to main content

When disaster strikes

Look into a recent natural disaster and explore how people help put things back together again.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Access to the internet
  • Access to a computer
  • Balloons
  • Felt-tips
  • Speaker or headphones, as needed

Before you begin

  • If there’s no internet access at your meeting place, print some resources for the group to use in advance. They could research a recent incident like the Australian bush fires (2019-2020). We’ve included some web links in the ‘Natural disasters examples’ below to help.
  • Try to source news stories that are age-appropriate and that everyone has the ability to research. Some topics may make people uncomfortable as they may have been personally affected in the past, or have friends and family in countries prone to natural disasters. Let everyone know that they can step away, talk to someone and have a break if they need to.


Discover a disaster

  1. Split into groups of three or four people. Find a space to set up with paper, something to write with and a computer or smartphone connected to the internet.
  2. Spend some time researching a natural disaster. Find photos, read articles and watch videos that show what happened, how it affected people and how they responded.
  1. Each group should settle on a single event and consider the short-term needs of the people affected. Think about practical and emotional needs, priorities and risks. Fold a sheet of paper into quarters and write these down in the first quarter.
  2. Consider the longer-term needs of the people affected. Think about damage to roads and other infrastructure, and what might be needed to kickstart the local economy. Write down notes in the second quarter.
  3. Consider the location and country affected. Think about how developed it is, how able it is to recover and how its economy might be damaged. Write down notes in the third square.
  4. Then, choose three photos. One should represent short-term needs, one longer-term needs and one the location of the event.
  5. Consider the response of the country affected and others. Think about who could help with the clean-up, provide services, supplies or support. List these in the fourth square.
  1. Groups should link up and share their findings. They should look at the photos and information and discuss what that particular disaster might be like to live through.

Juggle resources

  1. Each group should choose their top five things needed to help people affected by their disaster. Give each group five balloons. They should inflate them and write each means of support on a balloon in felt-tip. Explain that the aim of the game is for groups to take turns to keep their balloons off of the floor.
  2. One volunteer from each group should stand in the middle. The others should stand around them holding the balloons. The person leading the activity should shout ‘Go!’ The balloons should be thrown into the middle. The person in the middle must keep them all in the air for 30 seconds without catching them. After 30 seconds, stop the game.
  3. See if any groups dropped any balloons. See what was written on any dropped balloons. Groups should think about how this lost form of aid would affect the disaster victims short and long term. Repeat the balloon juggling game with two people in the middle or more, if everyone enjoyed it.

Scout out some help

  1. Everyone should think about some people who do the kind of things that help out disaster victims. They could think specifically about those who do the things they wrote on their balloons. Draw the outline of a person on a piece of paper and write down five actions around the outside of the page.
  2. Now, think about the qualities and skills a person would need to provide help in these ways. Remember that lots of aid workers are volunteers. If you found examples of aid workers in your research earlier, think about their qualities and skills. For instance, they might be kind and dedicated, able to perform first aid, or good at fixing things.
  1. Illustrate the qualities and skills on the person they drew. They could use words or drawings. Allow some time for each person to decorate their outline and give them clothes or equipment they might use when helping others.
  2. Everyone should now think about their own qualities and skills. Select three. Have everyone think about whether their qualities and skills would be useful if they were helping out after a natural disaster. Consider whether there are any that are similar to the aid worker they’ve drawn. Think about times where these qualities and skills have come in useful.
  3. The groups should go back to the three pictures they found of short-term issues, long term issues and the locations affected. They should think of things they could do to help when the next disaster strikes in these three scenarios. Something to help people immediately, something to help people in the aftermath and something to help the country cope better as a whole.


Qualities like resilience and compassion are just as important as practical skills in helping those affected by natural disasters. They’re also important in our everyday lives when we’re having a hard time with difficult situations. How did being resilient help you and how does being compassionate help others? These work the other way round too; it feels good and does good when we help others!

Does anyone have any coping skills they use to help with setbacks? Would anyone like to share these with the group? Being positive and accepting help from those around us can often be key in helping people and countries bounce back. As global citizens, we can all do something to help others cope when a natural disaster strikes. Even something small can make a big difference.


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe.

For more support around online safety or bullying, check out the NSPCC website. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.

As always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card reporting processes.

Phones and cameras

Make sure parents and carers are aware and have given consent for photography.

Music and films

Make sure music and films are age appropriate for the youngest person present.