Saturday, February 27, 2010

“The generous spirit of our Rapid Response team was truly inspiring.”

When Hurricane Gustav roared ashore in Louisiana with heavy rain and powerful winds on September 1, 2008, the Greater New York Chapter's 46-member Rapid Response Team was already in place, staffing a Red Cross mega shelter in Alexandria, Louisiana. The team, led by NY Red Cross CEO, Terry Bischoff and Chief Response Officer, Scott Graham provided a safe haven—including food, water, shelter, and health and mental health counseling—for more than 3,800 evacuees who’d fled the storm. “The generous spirit of our Rapid Response team was truly inspiring,” said CEO Bischoff.

–Theresa Bischoff, CEO, NY Red Cross

"Sincere thanks … makes every 14-plus hour day worthwhile."

After storms and heavy rainfall caused serious flash flooding in already saturated areas of the central US in June, 2008 the American Red Cross mobilized relief workers to six states in the devastated areas. Greater New York Red Cross volunteer, Fred Leahy was deployed to Cedar Rapids, Iowa where the Red Cross was providing for the immediate needs of those affected by the flood, including food and shelter. Fred worked for three weeks as Deputy Administrator Partner Services, managing the Government Liaison Managers responsible for coordinating the Red Cross response in each Iowa county that was declared a “disaster county,” as well as the cities therein.

Fred, who lived in nearby Waverly as a child, remembers the raging Cedar River as a placid river on which he and his Dad fished when he was five years old. He snapped the accompanying photo above on a side street not far from downtown. “I remember the empathy that I felt when I saw these people's lives piled on the curbs to be carted away as trash,” he said.     

“What makes a 14-plus hour day worth while for me comes at the end of the day. On my way to the shelter, bone tired, I will stop for food. Almost every time, while standing in line waiting for a cashier, someone will ask where I am from. After replying “New York City,” they sincerely thank me for coming and helping them. I am ready to go again the next day.”

–Fred Leahy, NY Red Cross Volunteer

“The Red Cross is always there for those who need us.”

After Continental Airlines Flight 3407, which was traveling from Newark to Buffalo, crashed into a home in Clarence Center, NY on February 12, 2009 killing all on board, 12 relief workers from the Greater New York Chapter were deployed to Buffalo as part of a coordinated Red Cross relief effort to provide comfort and counseling to those affected by the crash.

Diane Ryan, NY Red Cross Director, Mental Health & Service Programs, was one of two mental health workers from the Greater NY Chapter who traveled to Buffalo. Over the course of 10 days in Buffalo, Diane co-led the Red Cross mental health response. In this role, she coordinated the work of the mental health and spiritual care volunteers who provided service to friends and families of the passengers and aircraft personnel, those who evacuated from their homes at the impact site and responders in the field.

“The Red Cross is always there for those who need us,” said Diane. “I am proud to be part of an organization that mobilizes immediately to make sure the family and friends of those affected by tragedy are cared for.”

–Diane Ryan, New York Red Cross

“It takes a village to get this type of operation going.”

New York Red Cross Senior Supervisor of Response and International Red Cross delegate Dario Diaz Jr. left for the Dominican Republic—his childhood home—on January 19 where he was assigned as a Support Disaster Liaison Officer for the Haiti relief effort. He spent his first day on the job in a warehouse supervising the loading of relief cargo arriving at the DR airport and getting it on the road to Haiti. Dario described the situation as a logistical “rollercoaster ride,” saying that “it takes a village to get this type of operation going.”

 As Dario reviewed all the hats he wears in Haiti—logistics representative, translator, port operations operator—he described his job as “Troubleshooter—making sure that what is requested by our teams in Haiti get to them quickly and safely … making sure that all things in transit to Haiti via Dominican Republic leave ‘yesterday.’ Fortunately, we are getting it done.”

One thing Dario felt on meeting the first American Red Cross team to return to the Dominican Republic from Haiti was a tremendous sense of pride. “I felt the essence of the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross,” he said. “The team was beat up, tired and hungry, but most importantly, they were coming from helping others.”

–Dario Diaz Jr.

Friday, February 26, 2010

“Red Cross respects everyone’s basic human rights.”

I was born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal. I came to the United States after receiving a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu. I decided to continue my studies and received a masters of science in electrical engineering from Stony Brook University, New York. I enjoyed going to Stony Brook, as I was receiving more education and I was getting to know a new culture and language better.

I graduated last year and have been looking into a career in computer engineering. As we all know, due to the recession the unemployment rate is very high, and not many companies are hiring. I have not had much luck landing a job. One day on I read an article in which career experts advised students to look for alternatives until the economy picks up. Some advised people to work anywhere—even a coffee shop.

I thought about this and about how I was actively involved in social and community activities as a student in Nepal. I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer at the Red Cross and contribute in community activities. I started at the NY Red Cross’ Queens Area Office in August 2009, doing administrative work. I now volunteer three days a week and really enjoy the work.

I love the Red Cross because it has no boundaries. Whatever corner of the world I visit, I see the Red Cross serving people in need. Red Cross does not discriminate between race, religion or economic status. It looks at everyone as human being and respects everyone’s basic human rights.

Recently I joined AmeriCorps to contribute to the American Red Cross in other ways. Like many people these days I have not been able to land a job and get depressed sometimes. However, in another corner of my heart I feel highly content that I have committed myself to this voluntary service to my community.

–Ashma Adhikari, NY Red Cross Volunteer

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Being Deployed to Haiti

“We were there to support and help people rebuild their lives.”

More than 6,000 Red Cross volunteers and employees from across the US responded to the devastating Southern California wildfires in October and November 2007. In all, the fires affected more than 640,000 acres of land and destroyed or damaged more than 5,000 homes. The Red Cross provided shelter for thousands of evacuees, as well as financial assistance and emotional support for tens of thousands of residents.

Charles Ball, NY Red Cross Assistant Director of Research, was one of 23 Greater New York Chapter volunteers and employees who participated in the relief and recovery effort. Charles conducted damage assessments of homes in San Diego County, and remembers most of the damage being an “all-or-nothing affair” with houses and trailers either untouched, or “just gone.” Charles said, “People often came to see the fate of their homes for the first time while we were assessing those homes. I felt that the presence of the Red Cross helped people realize that they were not alone with their suffering and that we were there to support and help them rebuild their lives.”

–Charles Ball, NY Red Cross

"The Red Cross brought smiles and reassurances."

 Ron Fletcher was home when a three-alarm fire broke out in his apartment building. He rushed out to join neighbors on the sidewalk. “It was chaos,” he said. “But the Red Cross was there right away. They brought smiles and reassurances that we’d be well taken care of.”

Ron’s wife, Sandra, has also been touched by the work of the Red Cross. Sandra lost contact with her father in Puerto Rico following a flood in the 1990s. “Within a week of contacting the Red Cross, they let me know he was safe,” she said. “Red Cross help has been essential in my life. When things are back on track, I’d like to become a Red Cross volunteer.”

–Sandra and Ron Fletcher, Manhattan

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

“The Red Cross helps people right here--in the Bronx"

On a November evening, Proserpina Watson watched helplessly as firefighters ripped down doors, walls and roofing in an attempt to locate the source of smoke in the Bronx brownstone where she grew up. Later, she and her Aunt Carrie stood in what was once the dining room and looked straight up to the sky. When a Red Cross volunteer on the scene gave them emergency funds for food and clothing, Proserpina was surprised and pleased. “We're seeing firsthand that this agency does good things for people who are in trouble,” she said. “Not just in another country … the Red Cross helps people right here--in the Bronx!" 

–Proserpina Watson, Bronx