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Moms Give Thanks for Blood Donors: “I’m So Lucky”

This Mother’s Day, two women share their heartfelt thanks for blood donors who saved their lives.

Noelle Gardner

New Picture (1)In June 1994, when she was 28 years old, Noelle Gardner hemorrhaged while giving birth to her son. Blood donations helped save her life. In a video submitted to the Red Cross, Noelle and her family share what those blood donations mean to them.

“Before this happened to me, I would never give blood. But I’m so thankful everybody didn’t think the way I did, or I would have died. So after that, I give blood now.”

Randi Mitchell

New PictureIn 1997, while living in Minnesota, Randi Mitchell lost a lot of blood while giving birth. Blood donations helped save her life. Randi remembers that moment and what it means to her and her family to have been able to spend the last 15 years with her wonderful sons.

Her son Henry addressed Red Cross blood donors, saying, “Thank you for my mom. I don’t know what I’d do without her, so thank you.”

“It’s really emotional for me,” said Randi. “I feel so lucky to have survived that day and have the rest of this life to be a Mom. I’m very thankful.”

Two Ways to Help

  1. Learn more about how you can help families like the Mitchells and the Gardners by donating blood.
  2. Shop with Amazon Smile this Mother’s Day, and Amazon will donate to the American Red Cross.

Amazon Smile Mothers Day

Connecting Nepal: A Report from IT/Telecoms Volunteers

Written by Julie Bradley, IT/Telecommunications volunteer with the American Red Cross Emergency Relief Unit in Nepal

When the dogs wake you up at night with frantic barking, it might be time to put on your shoes and get ready to run. So far, dogs have been reliable indicators of aftershocks ranging from ‘mild’ to ‘Let’s exit the building.’ Right now we are sleeping in tents in the field next to Search and Rescue dogs and they have been a reliable ‘canine early warning’ of coming aftershocks. Truly a man’s best friend.

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For the past few days, our job as the American Red Cross IT/Telecoms Emergency Relief Unit has been to support field units in the hardest hit areas of Nepal. New Zealand Red Cross team member Tom McNally and I just returned to Disaster Operations in Kathmandu after installing communications, Internet and wifi to support a rapidly expanding International Red Cross operation.

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Delayed en route by a landslide, Tom and I walked from the vehicle to the landslide blocking the road, gathering with the villagers to watch the slow but effective clearing of our path. In some areas, whole villages crumbled and the community is still in shock. But in the rest of Nepal, people are moving on with whatever they can do to help with the disaster relief efforts.

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Tom and I drove through crumbled villages on the way to our field units and arrived at the same time as the Red Cross hospital and sanitation teams we are supporting. It was an eerie scene as we worked well into the night, with dozens of Red Crossers working by headlight. Literally overnight, a 60-bed hospital camp was well underway, and by the next afternoon they were accepting casualties and patients. As the scene unfolded around us, Tom and I worked to get our equipment up and running: satellite communications, wifi and Internet-based phone service which were all desperately needed for the dozens of Red Cross workers to communicate and coordinate with the outside world. A Norwegian Search and Rescue team gifted us some equipment as they departed, so we even had a Red Cross laser printer and administrative supplies – trivial in civilization, but a major luxury for these field teams.

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The units we supported were smiling and appreciative of our efforts, but they are the real superheroes in this story. We will move on to the next site, providing communications, then move on once more. They stay, living in indescribable hardship, giving help and hope to destroyed communities.

(By the way, we know people want to get involved, and that’s a great thing! Donating money now is the only way to help, as supplies are only useful when there’s the coordination to distribute them. Learn more about the “cash is best” policy in another blog post.)

Three ways to help those affected by the Nepal Earthquake:

  • GIVE: To help people affected by disasters big and small, visit Redcross.org or contact your local American Red Cross chapter.
  • MAP: To help with critical mapping efforts, visit http://tasks.hotosm.org. No experience is needed, just a computer and internet connection.
  • SHARE: Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the global Red Cross Twitter account and American Red Cross Facebook and Twitter posts.

Photos c/o Julie Bradley, IT/Telecoms volunteer

Three Lessons for Nepal From Haiti (The Huffington Post)

David Meltzer, Chief International Officer of the American Red Cross, penned an article for the Huffington Post this week with vivid stories and important lessons from his many trips to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

When news broke of the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal, I had just returned from my 20th trip to Haiti and was tragically reminded of what we faced in the early hours following the Haiti earthquake.  Like Port au Prince in Haiti at the time of the 2010 earthquake, Kathmandu in Nepal is a city with many homes that are not earthquake-resistant and it is now confronted with the challenges of bringing relief supplies for hundreds of thousands of people into a city with one small airport and many impassable roads.  The challenges are daunting even to the most experienced and hardened disaster relief worker.  But as hard as it is to imagine that a country with this much devastation can ever recover, the example of Haiti, five years later, is instructive.

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Head over to the Huffington Post to read the full piece, including Meltzer’s three lessons for relief and recovery in Nepal from our experience in Haiti. 

Read more about how the American Red Cross is responding to the Nepal earthquake on redcross.org.

Brian Boyle Beats the Odds: C&O Canal 100 Mile Ultramarathon

Post by Steve Mavica, External Communications Manager, Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region

Author, American Red Cross blood recipient and national volunteer spokesman Brian Boyle continued his miraculous comeback from a horrific 2004 auto accident by successfully completing the C&O Canal 100 Mile Ultramarathon in Knoxville, Maryland, on April 26. Brian dedicated each mile of the race to the 100 people who pledged to donate blood or platelets through his recent SleevesUp campaign. The C&O Canal 100-mile race featured one 58-mile loop and one 41-mile loop almost entirely on the C&O Canal, starting and finishing at Camp Manidokan and running along the canal between Antietam Creek and Noland’s Ferry.

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Brian and his family arrived at scenic Camp Manidokan around 6 a.m. the day before to prepare for the race, but the sunny spring morning turned into something quite unexpected, at least in terms of the weather. Despite the brutal conditions on Saturday night, with freezing cold temperatures along with rain and sleet, Brian said the race was truly an amazing experience. Through extreme conditions Brian finished the 100-mile ultramarathon in just over 29 challenging, nonstop hours. While just over 130 runners registered for the race, only 69 crossed the finish line.BB Crossing the finish line

What makes this race even more significant to Brian was the fact that he was able to recruit 100 Red Cross blood and platelet donors through his SleevesUp campaign and dedicate each mile to these generous donors. Before the race, Brian printed out the names of the pledged blood donors and carried them with him as inspiration throughout the race. As a 36-time blood recipient, Brian say that he runs with an entire team of blood donors with him. This race gave new meaning to that statement because, as a blood recipient, he was running for 100 blood and platelet donors that helped up to 300 other blood recipients during their time of need, just like he did in the summer of 2004.

In 2004, on the way home from swim practice in Welcome, Maryland, then 18-year-old Brian’s future changed in an instant when his car was hit by a dump truck. Having lost 60 percent of his blood, he was airlifted to a trauma hospital. During many operations, he received 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments and died eight times. Following surgery, he was placed in a medically induced coma and given little chance of survival. When Brian finally emerged from the coma two months later, doctors predicted he might not be able to walk again. With enormous fortitude, Brian learned to walk, then run, and eventually, to swim and bike. With his dream of one day competing in the Ironman Triathlon spurring him on, Brian defied all odds and competed and crossed the finish line in the 2007 Kona Ironman less than four years after his accident. Today, Brian is a volunteer spokesman for the Red Cross.

Brian has beaten the odds again and again by completing many endurance races such as the Boston Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, the U.S. Championships Ironman Triathlon in New York City, the Ironman Triathlon in Cambridge, Maryland and now his first 100-mile ultramarathon. During each race, Brian wears the Red Cross emblem to represent the many blood recipients whose lives have been saved in part due to Red Cross blood and platelet donors and to thank the blood donors who helped save his life and were the foundation for his recovery.

Visit ironheartbrianboyle.com to learn more about Brian, including his published memoir, Iron Heart, describing on his journey back to life, and his new book The Patient Experience: The Importance of Care, Communication, and Compassion in the Hospital Room provides vital information from the patient’s perspective to help caregivers gain valuable insight. Photos from this amazing event can be found on the Red Cross Blood Services Flickr page.

 

When Disasters Strike, Cash Is Best

When disasters strike, the first thing people want to know is “How can I help?” As a Red Crosser working in international communications, one of the most rewarding parts of my job is to see how people come together after tragedy, like the recent earthquake in Nepal, wanting to simply help in any way they can.

Many times, this well-intentioned and generous “How can I help?” question translates into donations that actually complicate an already difficult logistical situation on the ground. Donations like clothing, food and gifts, bought here in the U.S., are challenging to ship. In situations like Nepal, where transportation and logistics are difficult in the best of times, getting such donations in country and out to the people most in need wears heavy on responders. Whether it’s on the receiving end or the distribution end, the Red Cross and other disaster responders have learned over the years that cash is best.

Here’s why.

Cash involves no transportation costs, no delays, no customs and fees, no carbon footprint and it doesn’t divert relief workers’ time. Cash allows relief supplies to be purchased in markets close to the disaster site, which stimulates local economies by stabilizing employment and generating cash flow.  Cash donations also ensure that commodities are fresh and familiar to survivors, that supplies arrive expeditiously and that goods are culturally, nutritionally and environmentally appropriate. For example, many western canned goods contain pork, something that those following a Halal diet (like many people in Nepal) don’t eat. Few material donations have this highly beneficial, four-fold impact.

The Red Cross takes this “cash is best” stance when responding to many different disasters. Cash transfer programming has become a critical element in international disaster response and has successfully helped people rebuild their lives in Haiti, the Philippines, Jordan and Bosnia, among others. While the Red Cross still distributes indispensable items following a disaster such as tarps, blankets and hygiene kits, putting cash in the hands of survivors allows them to buy the essentials necessary to start rebuilding their lives and continue to pay their bills. It helps stimulate the local economy by allowing them to make transactions from their local markets and gives people a sense of control in situations where control is often the last thing felt.

Wondering more about how you can help the Red Cross response in Nepal?

  • GIVE: To help those affected by the Nepal Earthquake, visit Redcross.org or contact your local chapter.
  • MAP: Find tasks ready for volunteers online to help with critical mapping efforts. No experience is needed, just a computer and Internet connection.
  • SHARE: Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the global Red Cross Twitter account and American Red Cross Facebook and Twitter posts.

Information pulled from USAID’s Center for Disaster Information

A Red Cross Insider Look: Tweets From Nepal

Many of you are wondering what the Red Cross is doing in Nepal after the earthquake. Today, we created a new way to see what’s happening on the ground.

Field assessment teams have arrived in Nepal to obtain a more accurate assessment of the destruction. Eight American Red Cross disaster specialists are mobilized to Nepal to support emergency relief, cash transfer programming, information management, recovery planning and IT/telecoms.

To help compile what those on the ground are doing and seeing as part of the global Red Cross response, we created a new Twitter list: ”Red Crossers on the Ground in Nepal.”

You can subscribe to the list to stay updated and see the full stream of tweets, but here’s a sampling:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaken In Nepal

Written by Glen and Julie Bradley, IT/Telecommunications volunteers with the American Red Cross Emergency Relief Unit in Nepal, who were deployed immediately following the earthquake to restore critical communications in the region.

Nepal telecommsThe aftershocks, which have been rolling across Kathmandu sporadically since April 25, shake the region almost as much as the initial 7.8 quake. People are skittish of enclosed spaces. Families whose homes are still standing continue to sleep in the open. Aid workers sleep jumpily in the few so-called ‘earthquake proof’ hotels – a claim that basically gives you time to run from the building before it collapses. Those of us who brought tents vie for the best empty space—the grassy grounds of a nearby hotel closed since the quake. Space is tight as International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) relief units from all over the world pour into the Kathmandu airport and then push out toward the epicenter to do help among the growing need and casualties.

Laying the Telecommunications Groundwork

As a strange comfort, I keep my portable VHF radio close as I work, monitoring the Red Cross disaster communications network we installed a little over a year ago as part of a joint Earthquake Preparedness Program with the Danish Red Cross. Glen and I, American Red Cross IT/Telecom Emergency Response Unit (ERU) members, previously spent a month in Kathmandu and the foothills of the Himalayas installing a robust radio communications network that covers the entire Kathmandu Valley. Funded by the Danish Red Cross and assisted by the Nepalese Red Cross, we dubbed ourselves the ‘Kathman-duo’ and spent that December working with our Nepalese counterparts installing radio repeaters, antennas, solar panels and battery banks on two mountain tops surrounding Kathmandu. All followed by training sessions with the Nepalese Red Cross staff and volunteers – allowing daily operational use of the network to widely dispersed districts and chapters. That month, we worked long days and weeks with our Nepalese counterparts; forging friendships which opened our eyes to their culture and people.

When Glen and I got the call to deploy to the Nepal earthquake, our thoughts were of our friends – they had not responded to our emails. Were they safe? Had our disaster preparedness communication network survived?

Back to Nepal for Telecommunications Support

We sent an email with our airport arrival time and were relieved to see the smiling faces of our Nepalese friends with arms stretched out to welcome us back. As they loaded our stacks of 70-pound cases of VSATs, computer networking and radio equipment, they told us their survivor stories; where they had been and what they were doing when the quake hit. In our relief to see them safe and well we forgot to ask about our communications network. Then we heard a remote voice and our friend Achyut reached for his radio responding to a call from the Nepal Red Cross headquarters.

The communications network survived. All the planning and hard work paid off; the Danish Red Cross had recognized the need and the American Red Cross worked with the Nepalese Red Cross to make it happen.

Now Glen and I are here in Nepal working the earthquake disaster the only way we know how; supporting the dozens of IFRC disaster response units on the ground with satellite communications, networking and radio capability. It’s a big job, but once again we are working as a combined team – this time with our New Zealand and Nepal Red Cross counterparts.

That capacity building project worked – but now we have a bigger challenge. Do whatever it takes to provide communications to the ever-growing numbers of Red Cross relief and medical teams working across a wide swath of Nepal. The job here is overwhelming, but we will have a lot of help from our friends.

 

To help those affected by the Nepal Earthquake:

  • GIVE: To help those affected by the Nepal Earthquake, visit Redcross.org or contact your local chapter.
  • MAP: To help with critical mapping efforts, visit http://tasks.hotosm.org. No experience is needed, just a computer and internet connection.
  • SHARE: Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the global Red Cross Twitter account and American Red Cross Facebook and Twitter posts.

Mapping Nepal: Disaster Response in the Digital Age

After disasters strike, updated maps are extremely important to emergency responders. These maps help us measure the damage, identify priority areas, navigate our way around damaged roadways, and more efficiently deliver aid to people in need. The maps can show us things like road quality, building damage, and whether rural areas are cut off from the aid delivery routes.

A History of Mapping for Disasters

The Red Cross used OpenStreetMap technology in 2012 to trach a cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone and then again in 2013 to assist Typhoon Haiyan survivors. After Typhoon Haiyan, emergency responders told us how much more efficiently they were able to work because of these maps. The Red Cross loaded the updated maps onto relief workers’ GPS devices—it not only saved them time navigating to villages while delivering relief supplies, but also helped teams to assess damages.

Mapping for Nepal

Red Cross and OpenStreetMap volunteers are now mapping areas in Nepal after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on Saturday. Mappers are working hard tracing detailed mountainous terrain to help disaster responders measure the damage caused and deliver aid to people in need. When we deployed people to Nepal this week, we sent maps to use and share with other Red Cross team members on the ground.

Following the earthquake, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) tasked volunteers to map IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps from satellite imagery services provided by (or shared by) the State Department’s MapGive program.

“This collaboration is unprecedented,” said Samuel Estabrook, a GIS Analyst with International Services at the American Red Cross. “It’s wonderful. Now all this work has to be put to good use. Within the next few days and weeks we will analyze incoming data that’s a result of this thoughtful gesture by volunteers, organizations, and partners of the American Red Cross. Our tools and resources, given to us by trusting and kind donors and volunteers, are being deployed to and utilized in Nepal. We can only hope that our help will alleviate some of anguish cause by the earthquake.”

How You Can Help

OpenStreetMap works like Wikipedia, in that many people have their eyes on the same information. Volunteers are playing a huge part in making these maps, but more experienced mappers are checking their work, making wide-ranging edits, and identifying areas that have been undeserved.

To help with critical mapping efforts, visit http://tasks.hotosm.org. No experience is needed, just a computer and internet connection.

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Learn more about how the American Red Cross is responding to the Nepal earthquake on redcross.org.

A Picture of Nepal: The Land, the People, the Response

Posted by Maya Kapsokavadis, International Services Program Officer supporting country programs in Bangladesh, Myanmar/Burma and Nepal at the American Red Cross

IMG_0827As a Program Officer at the American Red Cross, I understand the devastating impact disasters have on people and the immense effort it takes to implement a successful humanitarian intervention. In my role, I am responsible for South Asia, which includes some of the most hazard prone countries in the world. In fact, my first trip to Nepal was unforgettable not because I was traversing its idyllic countryside, but because I was seized by an absolutely paralytic fear of being in an earthquake (something hard for a California native to admit).

“Typical Kathmandu”

IMG_0280A local partner organization had arranged an introduction to “typical Kathmandu” – a walk that traversed some of the most physically impressive (not in a good way) parts of the city where unplanned urbanization was at its worst. Buildings loomed overhead on streets so narrow that no emergency vehicle could possibly gain access to them. Staring up at telephone towers bending under the weight of exposed wires, I experienced a sense of panic that never surfaced in my past work. The same pattern repeated as I traveled to remote areas of Nepal where villages were weakly connected by bumpy, pot-holed, half-paved roads that slinked tenuously across mountains with breathtaking views and plummeting falls. I held my breath more often than not and refined the technique of sleeping through unease. This exposure visit increased my awareness of the potential ill-effects of sub-standard construction techniques and the need to educate the public about the risks of rapid, unplanned, and unregulated building.

Nepal Earthquake Response

Until this past Saturday, I had never experienced a disaster in a country I intimately knew—where the people at the heart of the crisis were my people—not only my coworkers, but friends I’d shared dinners and deep conversations with—people who made long (often lonely/hotel ridden) deployments exciting and inspiring. As the response mounts from the American Red Cross, I am overwhelmed with concern for the safety of our partners, local staff and volunteers and the people of Nepal.

The staff we have been in contact with are struggling to travel across a country that lacks the infrastructure to accommodate their movements. Most are walking, tens of hours, to access vulnerable villages in earthquake and landslide-affected districts. Logistics, transport and access, massively difficult in the best of situations, is a top concern for responders. Many deployed staff still struggle to enter this land-locked country. With only one international airport, the response efforts are constrained and much-needed relief supplies and early responders cannot reach those in need. Moreover, Nepal has only two doctors out of every 1,000 people; a daunting fact given the rising health needs as survivors are pulled from the rubble and require urgent medical care. As I sit, safely behind my desk, I think of my colleagues, and am humbled by their courage and selflessness. They are first responders, but also those who have been most affected. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, these staff and volunteers have arguably put the needs of their communities ahead of their own.

Red Crossers in Nepal

IMG_0682I have been most impressed by the longevity and dedication of my counterparts at the Nepal Red Cross. Volunteers supporting this national society forever changed my concept of what it means to be a Red Crosser. I quickly lost track of the number of people who had spent the majority of their lives in voluntary service to the Red Cross mission and the communities they worked with. Whether teaching children life-saving techniques in the event of a disaster or helping communities identify local solutions to build resilience; it is the volunteers who are at the heart of Red Cross work. This emergency is a reminder for me of the invaluable work we do, the sacrifices we make, and the beauty of the human spirit when we come together to support each other.

Now Recruiting: Social Media Ambassadors for Red Cross Giving Day

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Can you tweet in your sleep? Instagram on the fly? Facebook your face off? We need your help!

You are: A social media maven. Passionate about helping those who are in need.

We need: Social pros to help carry our Red Cross Giving Day message far and wide. We’ll give you all the tools you need. Help out as much (or as little) as you can.

What is Giving Day? Red Cross Giving Day is coming up on June 2. It’s a chance for neighbors, friends and families to unite in order to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most in our communities. Because we never know when an emergency will occur and a neighbor or family member may be left with nowhere to turn, your support is critical to be sure the Red Cross is there to respond with help and hope.

Your mission: You have a simple, yet important assignment – spread the word about Giving Day to your social media networks! You will have access to content, images and badges to use in your posts. Wondering what to write? We’ve got you covered. The Social Ambassador Toolkit provides easily customizable, click and paste social posts and images for you to use. We even have a special hashtag to use – #allin1day – to add to the Giving Day conversation.

Sign me up! It’s easy – head to the Giving Day website and let us know a little about who you are. You’ll receive periodic emails from us with ideas on how to keep the momentum going as we lead up to June 2.

Are you a student or young professional? We have a special program just for you. Take our pledge, and we’ll send you a t-shirt to rock your Red Cross pride.

Together let’s bring more good days for families in need! #allin1day