Monday, February 24, 2020

In Case You Missed It - Feb 24

Our volunteer providing emotional support to one of the individuals
by the Port Jervis Fire (Photo Courtesy - Orlando Pentrelli)

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 133 adults and 42 children following 41 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Monday, February 17, 2020

In Case You Missed It - Feb 17

Emergency Preparedness Team  who officially launched our newest children’s program called
Prepare with Pedro in PS 23, in the Bronx. (Photo: John Waldman)

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 128 adults and 52 children following 38 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

    Upcoming Events and Opportunities

    Friday, February 14, 2020

    Brooklyn Volunteer Honored by International Red Cross

    by Daniel Sieberg, American Red Cross in Greater NY

    In December of last year, longtime Red Cross volunteer and Brooklyn native Georgine Gorra got some shocking (yet wonderful) news: She would be among a select group of volunteers from around the world honored by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the umbrella organization representing humanitarians in 192 countries.

    “I know so many people who are volunteers. I know extraordinary human beings. We’re all the same. I was quite taken aback by it [the award]. Took me a while to accept that I got it,” she said, shortly after being awarded the IFRC National Society Outstanding Volunteer honor.

    Gorra, who grew up near the Verrazano Bridge, says her family was deeply involved in WWII - her father and uncles all served - though she describes it as a quiet sense of pride and service that stuck with her.

    The concept of service to her own community was also instilled in her at a very young age, as she often witnessed her neighbors helping each other on a daily basis. She says she knew everyone in her community and that every single person helped each other regardless of their backgrounds. If someone passed away, neighbors left food at the door. If someone was struggling, the same thing happened.

    Like many New Yorkers, Gorra was driven to volunteerism with the American Red Cross by the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and became increasingly more involved; she now volunteers her time across three areas of service including Service to the Armed Forces, Volunteer Services and Disaster Mental Health. She often balanced this volunteer work with her day job as a licensed practitioner of social work, a position she held for 35 years before retiring seven years ago.

    “I believe in the human spirit and the human being’s ability to bounce back,” said Gorra. “So, I found in the Red Cross a group of people who were very like-minded. The cornerstone of the Red Cross is compassion.”

    While she’s traveled to numerous regions and has met countless people affected by disaster and trauma, Gorra says it isn’t one event that’s more or less catastrophic than the other. For her, any such incident involves harm to humanity - whether it involves one person or a hundred.

    Speaking about the complex emotions that disaster survivors cope with, Gorra said: “They’re in shock. Later on they may become angry. Or depressed even. It’s important to just let people start to heal and ensure that people are connected to one another - whether with their church, their family, their synagogue. And the Red Cross always tries to go the extra yard.”

    At 70, Gorra has hope for the future of service and giving back. After officially receiving her IFRC award in December, she had the honor of speaking to a group of young people at the United Nations. The theme of her presentation was service.

    “Although most people volunteer when they retire, I think that young people would do it,” said Gorra. “We just need to give them the invitation.”

    Three Questions: Ioana Opris Deploys to Puerto Rico

    "Three Questions" is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers, and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our different programs and get to know those who make this work possible. 

    Ioana Opris, Disaster Workforce Engagement Manager at the American Red Cross in Greater New York, traveled to Puerto Rico last month, where 1,000+ earthquakes have damaged and destroyed homes and disrupted tens of thousands of lives since December. During her two-week deployment to the island, Ioana worked in the Information and Planning section.

    Ioana has been part of the Red Cross family for over three years. She started with volunteer roles on the Disaster Response and Information and Planning teams, before taking on her current position as an employee in Workforce Engagement.

    This was her fourth deployment with the American Red Cross. Her first was following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. That was followed by assignments in North Carolina (Hurricane Florence) and Northern California (Camp Fire).

    Ioana, who lives in West Harlem, is originally from Romania and speaks Spanish, French, Romanian and English.

    Ioana and Dr. Diego Zavala, Volunteer Information and Planning Lead who
    served as Assistant Director of Information and Planning for this operation
    Interviewed by Maria Sievers, American Red Cross in Greater NY

    Can you talk about the impact of the earthquakes? 

    The magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck Puerto Rico on January 7th and caused the damage that initiated this Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation was part of a series of tremors that began on December 28th. Aftershocks have continued since, with greatest impacts felt in the southwestern portion of the island.

    The impact is complex and there are several components: Initially, people have sustained physical damage to their residences and that is a huge loss for families and communities. Unlike a hurricane or an incident that happens and then it’s done, the impact of the earthquakes is fluid, and there is the potential for additional damage to homes as aftershocks continue. 

    There is a significant emotional toll due to living under the stress of continuing earthquakes, and people fear returning to their homes. Many Puerto Ricans are staying in government-run shelters, but others are choosing to stay outside their homes and have set up temporary living arrangements outdoors. It’s tough, because as the aftershocks continue, they create a constant reminder of fear now associated with going home. The needs for emotional support, mental health care and disaster spiritual care are significant.

    And to put things in context, the island is still recovering from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. That has a compounding implication, not only materially but in terms of people’s emotional well-being.

    What was your specific role in Puerto Rico?

    I deployed as the Deputy Assistant Director of Information and Planning. The Information and Planning section covers different areas including coordination of the planning process, information management and dissemination, situational awareness, and disaster assessment. We produce documents that are not only used to plan our future actions, but also reports and products to capture data on our completed actions and current operations. We manage the process of collecting, analyzing and visualizing information and data to support internal decision-making as well as to coordinate with external partners, including government agencies.

    One of the ways in which we collect situational awareness from the field is through our Disaster Assessment Teams. They collect information on damages to homes which is then used to support our clients in their recovery process and helps the Red Cross allocate resources. We also use this information to get a clearer picture of where impacts are concentrated and target our service delivery.

    My primary role has been to support the Assistant Director of Planning for the local Red Cross operation. He is part of the Info and Planning team in Puerto Rico, and he and I had worked together on the response to Hurricane Maria. The secondary purpose of my deployment was to assist in building capacity for the local chapter. Response to a disaster always starts and ends locally. So, a lot of the work that we are doing here is making sure that the local team has what they need to develop their own capacity while we train even more volunteers to improve their overall planning capacity. They’ve all been doing an amazing job.

    Can you share some insight on the Puerto Rican people?

    Puerto Ricans are very welcoming to the Red Cross. When our teams are going out in the community they are greeted with warmth and by people who want to share their stories. In disaster, we see people who are experiencing some of the worst days of their lives, and it’s just amazing how welcoming, kind and grateful Puerto Ricans are to us for even coming. People welcome the supplies and services we are providing, but the hope spread by our teams is also so appreciated.

    One thing that I see every day in headquarters is that the volunteers in Puerto Rico are absolutely incredible. There are very few deployed staff here compared to [local] volunteers, and local volunteers have been carrying this mission and they have been incredible to work with. They amaze and inspire me every time I work with them.

    Ioana (seated second from the left) and her
    Information and Planning team in Puerto Rico

    Red Cross and Bronx Students “Prepare with Pedro”

    by Chris Pyo, American Red Cross in Greater NY

    Red Cross volunteers Alice Farhat and Alex Poku
    On Wednesday, February 12, 2020, the American Red Cross in Greater New York launched Prepare with Pedro, a new safety program for elementary school students. As part of the event, Red Cross volunteer instructors traveled to P.S. 23 in the Tremont section of the Bronx to teach more than 200 kids (K through second grade) the steps they need to take in the event of a fire.

    Among the team members who facilitated the training was Red Cross volunteer and preparedness expert Alexander Poku. “Even with kids as young as these children are, it’s important that we teach them about fire safety procedures as early as possible and have them pass the information we give them on to their parents” said Poku. “New Yorkers could face these dangers every single day, and the more we can do to educate children on how to practice safety in different scenarios, the better protected they are.”

    “Prepare with Pedro” is an expansion of an existing Red Cross preparedness program for children 8 to ten years old. This new initiative features a cartoon penguin named Pedro who guides the kids through a series of fun and informative stories about emergency preparedness. Different modules feature different disasters, including home fires, hurricanes, floods and other emergencies. The Red Cross chose to bring the fire safety module to the school in the Bronx due to the high number of home fires that occur in the borough.

    During the sessions, students were engaged in a number of activities to help them understand what to do and what not to do in the event of a fire (i.e. get low to the ground, never go back inside, get to safe place outside) and how to stay as calm as possible by taking deep breaths.

    Monday, February 10, 2020

    In Case You Missed It - Feb 10

    Image may contain: 6 people, people standing, child, tree, sky and outdoor
     Red Cross volunteers came out to Long Island to install free smoke alarms 

    Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 160 adults and 40 children following 38 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

    Last Week in Review
    • In light of the movie 1917 winning three Oscars last night, our friends at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shared this post about their work in 1917 delivering letters between soldiers and brothers... and mothers, sisters, lovers, fathers, children.
    • Over the weekend, Red Cross volunteers installed 105 alarms on Long Island. Thank you to this amazing group of people who dedicated their time to save lives!
    • Last Friday, speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl E. Heastie recorded his second PSA to help us reach his constituents and advance our home fire safety campaign.
    • Last Tuesday, Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Under-Secretary General for Partnerships at the IFRC, was in NYC to speak at Fordham University’s Humanitarian Lectures Series.
    • Last week, we shared images taken by our photographer Catalina Rodriguez. She recently captured the work of volunteers Mitch Kassel and Kimberly Taylor on shift with the Red Cross. Together, they assisted several residents in Queens and Brooklyn.
    • Early last week, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul lead a delegation from New York to Puerto Rico to provide support and assistance in earthquake-affected areas. As part of her trip, she met with Red Cross teams on the ground helping impacted residents.

    Upcoming Events and Opportunities

    Monday, February 3, 2020

    In Case You Missed It - Feb 3

    60+ Red Cross team members at the NY State Capitol alongside local elected officials including Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, Senator Timothy Kennedy, Senator Joseph Robach, Assemblyman Al Stripe, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

    From January 27 to February 2, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 134 adults and 43 children following 46 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

    Last Week in Review

    Upcoming Events and Opportunities