Children are some of the most vulnerable members of society. Unable to protect themselves, they easily can become victims of abuse and neglect. Lu Katopody, a Lake Highlands resident and volunteer for Family Outreach of East Dallas, is teaching children how to recognize danger and avoid becoming victims.
Katopody is coordinator of We Help Ourselves (WHO), an anti-victimization program for children developed by the Mental Health Association. The program is administered in East Dallas by Family Outreach, a non-profit agency dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
“WHO was developed to help children identify when they might be in dangerous situations,” says Katopody.
Volunteers use puppet shows and videos to make 45-minute presentations to elementary school students. The presentations include discussions about strangers and emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
Students are given the opportunity to discuss these issues and what they would do if they found themselves in specific situations. The interactive presentation allows the children to consider their options when faced with these risks.
In her second year as coordinator of the WHO program, Katopody spends a minimum of 20 hours each month contacting schools, scheduling presentations, recruiting and coordinating volunteers, organizing materials and attending programs.
“Lu has been a real integral part of the center,” says Lucia Frenkel, past president of Family Outreach of East Dallas. “If it weren’t for Lu contacting the schools and organizing the volunteers, WHO just wouldn’t happen.”
Katopody and five other volunteers work with one school each month. They make presentations for several classes and reach hundreds of children with their message.
“The program has been well-received,” Katopody says. “The kids enjoy it, and the counselors are thrilled we’re there because WHO helps them in their jobs.”
Katopody enjoys her work with WHO and Family Outreach because she believes she is making a difference in the lives of children.
“You feel satisfied that you’ve given the kids something they need, a skill they can use,” she says.
WHO is presented most often in DISD elementary schools, but the program also is available for other schools, churches and organizations. Groups interested in scheduling a presentation can contact Katopody at Family Outreach, 321-6292.