Youth Creating Disaster Recovery

The Story

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resilience (YCDR) began with an idea and a belief in the capacity of youth. We saw the important role that youth play in helping communities to heal and recover following a disaster. We wanted to learn from youth about their personal and collective stories of disaster recovery & resilience (e.g. how were they affected, what worked to support their recovery, what didn’t, and what would they do differently) and also provide a platform for youth to share their wisdom, creativity, and inspiration, with other youth and communities affected by and/or recovering from disasters. As researchers we also wanted to highlight and inform how youth can be more involved in community disaster recovery. With that, Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resilience was born.

Through our engagement with youth in disaster-affected communities, we continue to be humbled and inspired by their unique stories, insights and creativity. We encourage you to check out their disaster stories. Together we have so much to learn.

Joplin, Missouri

Joplin is located in Jasper County in southwestern Missouri. It is the largest city in Jasper with approximately 50,000 residents. Joplin also serves as a hub to many surrounding towns, making the daytime population expand to over 270,000. The motto of this town in the heart of America is: "Proud of Our Past...Shaping Our Future.'"

On May 22, 2011, Joplin experienced an EF-5 tornado (the highest magnitude on the Fujita scale). 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 Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resilience research team traveled to Joplin in January of 2013 for initial fieldwork and community engagement. We met with many business owners, city officials, and community members to discuss the role of youth following the 2011 Joplin tornado. Based on the information we learned and contacts we made, we returned in 2013 to work with group youth who participated in creative workshops to help build the foundation for the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resilience project. 


Slave Lake, Alberta


Slave Lake is a small town with a population of 6,782 that is nested near the Boreal Forest, Alberta’s 6th largest Provincial Park, Canada’s northernmost bird observatory, Alberta’s easternmost foothills and the most beautiful stretch of white sand beaches in Alberta, Canada. Coined “The Jewel of the North,” Slave Lake is located about two and half hours northwest of Edmonton and the southeastern edge of Lesser Slave Lake. This rural community is friendly and beautiful. 

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.

In July 2013 the YCDR team visited Slave Lake to get a better understanding of the impact that the wildfires had on youth in the community. We interviewed adults and held a focus group with youth who courageously discussed their recovery process. In 2014, graduate student Sarah Michaud reconnected with this group and invited them to participate in her Master’s Thesis research where they are now helping to reach out to youth in flood-affected communities throughout Southern Alberta.

Bowness, Calgary, Alberta


Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta, Canada with a population for 1,149,552 in 2013. The city is located approximately 80 km east of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This bustling city has been ranked as the “Best Place to Live in Canada in 2013” by Money Sense and “The World’s Cleanest City” by the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, 2013 and Forbes Magazine 2007. 

In June 2013, Calgary experienced the largest flood they had ever faced. Over 75,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes and many parts of the city, including the downtown business district were without power for several days. Overflowing rivers caused severe damage to roads and bridges in the city.

In December 2013, we visited Bowness, Calgary and met with disaster managers and members of the community to discuss possibilities for working together in the coming year. While in Calgary, the YDCR team made connections with two amazing youth centered organizations: Antyx is a company that uses arts to give youth a way to engage in their community and Youth Central is an organization that connects youth to volunteer opportunities throughout Calgary. In June 2014 we partnered with these organizations to hold a creative workshop with youth in the Bowness neighborhood of Calgary. We held a 4-day workshop involving games, creative exercise, and digital freeze-frame animation. 

High River, Alberta


Located just 30 minutes south of Calgary, High River is a small town known for it’s friendly character. High River has a population of 12,920 and sits along the Highwood River.

In June 2013, the town of High River experienced a flood that caused waters to rise above vehicles and necessitated the rescue of over 150 people from their rooftops. The entire city was forced to evacuate. 70% of homes in High River were moderately to severely damaged by the flooding, and 79 of 83 town buildings experienced significant damage driving many small businesses out of town.

The Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resiliency team visited High River in December 2013. We met with community leaders and youth-based organizations to discuss the initial recovery process. In the spring of 2014 we continued to meet with community partners involved in a youth collective focused on engaging youth in the community. In the spring of 2014, YCDR joined forces with Calgary-based Antyx (a community arts organization focused on youth) and with the High River Hearts and Minds program to organize a creative workshop with youth. The 4-day workshop took place in June 2014 involving participating youth in a digital, freeze-frame animation workshop in order to develop and tell their disaster recovery stories. Our collaboration with Antyx and Hearts and Minds continued and we are looking forward to new projects and possibilities in the fall of 2014. 

Colorado Floods


In September 2013, Colorado experienced severe flooding that destroyed homes and business across 14 counties. Research Coordinator, Jennifer Tobin-Gurley will begin her dissertation research with youth in these areas in the spring of 2015.