by Ryan Wilcox, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
The spirit of the volunteer is defined by selfless service. In the American Red Cross, we like to say, “Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All In.”
World Humanitarian Day, August 19th, is an opportunity to recognize humanitarians around the world. It marks the anniversary of a 2003 bombing at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad—killing 22 aid workers.
We’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate our dedicated volunteers that respond to disasters large and small. In recent months, American Red Cross volunteers have rolled up their sleeves in response to disasters locally and abroad.
Nepal Relief: On the Ground Meets Digital
In Nepal, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the capital city of Katmandu, resulting in the death of over 8,800 people. The shocks were felt as far away as Pakistan, over 800 miles away from the epicenter. The relief effort in Nepal continues. As many as 8 million people—nearly a third of the country’s population—have been affected. According to a recent assessment by the Nepali government, more than 700,000 people have dropped below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.
The American Red Cross is on the ground in Nepal, raising $35 million for relief efforts and deploying over 7,000 staff and volunteers. The response includes relief items like food, clothing, shelter tool kits and weather tarps. In addition, $6.2 million has been distributed in emergency cash distribution.
When the American Red Cross deploys for a disaster relief operation, digital volunteers support volunteers on the ground by monitoring social media for questions and calls for help. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the American Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross coordinated digital response efforts.
Catherine Barde Leventhal, an experienced digital volunteer, served on this digital team. She described one situation in particular, in which she was able to provide assistance to a remote community in Nepal.
“We discussed where she was located, creating signage for assistance and in the meantime, I sent the information back to our team leader at the IFRC,” said Leventhal. “In our follow up conversation, she was able to provide the GPS coordinates of this very small and remote community; and through an online conversation, around the world, from my desk, help was provided.”
As a result of a conversation over social media, food and supplies reached a community in need. This is one example of Red Cross digital relief efforts directly connecting to work being carried out on the ground.
The Front Lines: Shelter
A little closer to home, our team at Red Cross DFW has responded to the recent spring storms, resulting in flooding for many parts of Texas. Red Cross shelter volunteers are a critical part of every disaster relief operation. In addition to emotional support, they provide food, clothing and shelter at a time of great need.
The primary goal is to help the communities we serve begin the recovery process after a disaster.
According to the National Weather Service, over 35 trillion gallons of rain fell on Texas during May alone. The flooding left more than 2,000 Texas families without homes. In response, Red Cross DFW staff and volunteers opened 60 shelters serving more than 100 counties throughout Texas.
Be a #RedCrosser
This World Humanitarian Day, we celebrate humanitarians serving around the globe. In North Texas, volunteers account for over 95% of the Red Cross DFW workforce. We simply could not fulfill our mission without their effort.
Are you looking to make a difference in your community? You can explore volunteer opportunities, and fill out an application for your area, by clicking here.