Youth Discover Challenges of Disaster Recovery in Simulation Game

Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey (LSMNJ) participated in the NJ Synod’s Winter Youth Assembly, February 7-9. LSMNJ serves as the local affiliate of Lutheran Disaster Response, ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 

Youth and their leaders participated in LSMNJ’s Sandy simulation game, which demonstrated the challenges of disaster recovery following Superstorm Sandy. Each received a note card with a “Sandy story”, a list of items they needed in order to recover, and a limited amount of money.

Amy Pennenga, disaster recovery coordinator at LSMNJ ran the game. “I based the participant’s situations on real stories I have heard from people who were affected by Sandy.”

Participants visited two relief stations and applied for assistance needed to recover. In order to apply, they were asked to complete a number of tasks such as, stand on one leg and recite the pledge of allegiance, or answer 10 silly questions. Once they applied, most were put on waiting lists, but some were rejected because they did not meet requirements.

Participants became frustrated and confused at the process, similar to the feelings of Sandy victims. “I’m so confused, I thought we would all have the opportunity to recover!” said one youth participant.


Pennenga explained the purpose of the game, “There isn’t enough help to go around in real life, so there wasn’t in the game. Only a third of the participants each session were able to fully recover. There are still so many who are suffering, unable to get the help they need to recover from Sandy. It’s important for people to understand this.”

Once completing the game, youth then explored practical ways they are able to help those affected by Sandy. Youth and leaders were encouraged to bring household items to help fill “Hope” Chests. Operation “Hope” Chest, a program of Jersey Shore United (JSU) presents families who are moving back into their rebuilt/repaired home with a chest, filled with household essentials. JSU is a coalition of churches and faith-based organizations coming together to bring relief, hope, and support to the people devastated by Superstorm Sandy and other natural disasters.  Youth participants were able to fill two “Hope” chests, each a value of over $500 in essentials.

“I was truly amazed at how many items were collected. It is a perfect testament to the passion of youth and their eagerness to help in times of need,” said Pennenga. LSMNJ looks forward to continue working along side great organizations like JSU, bringing recovery to New Jersey.