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Share a Bit of “Hope.ly” this Holiday Season

Today is Giving Tuesday, and social media will be buzzing all day with posts from terrific people (like yourself) sharing their support of various nonprofit organizations and causes.

3_hopely all devices_site + ribbon
While you’re in this giving and sharing mood, the Red Cross and Bitly have teamed up to create hope.ly—a new social tool that allows you to shorten links and help to increase donations to support the Red Cross.

Here’s how it works:

4_hopely landing page
When you share content using a hope.ly link—just as you normally do through Bitly— A ribbon will automatically appear over the content that the user shares, urging people to donate to the Red Cross. The donate button within the ribbon will drive people to the Redcross.org donation page. Cool, right?

 

5_hopely ribbon example

The Hope.ly link is available December 2 to December 31. Every hope.ly you share could make a difference, so visit Bitly.com to create a hope.ly link and start sharing today.

State of Social Giving — Live Chat

Live Blog State of Social Giving

An Open Letter to Marcel the Shell with Shoes on

Note: If you haven’t seen the video gem that is “MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON” (and that’s the full official name), you should watch this before perusing this open letter to Marcel. Here is the recently released part three:

 

Dear Marcel,

We were totally thrilled to see your latest interview posted on YouTube, but we’re a little concerned about some of your lifestyle choices. We are hoping you might benefit from learning about a couple of Red Cross resources, if you’ll give us a minute of your time.

When thunder roars, go indoors! Marcel, I’m afraid you need to work on this one a bit. Standing under a leaf is not going to cut it when storms roll in.

If you’re going to put yourself in precarious situations (like, say, sneezing yourself off the window ledge), we would like to offer an app for your perusal: First aid at your fingertips! Ahem, your…shoe tips?

When you’re such a little guy, you might need to brush up on your flood tips more urgently than the rest of us. You should know that if you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles (or for you, the bottom of your shell), stop, turn around and go another way. If you need more flood info, our app is here! (Get a couple of friends together, you might be able to maneuver a smartphone)

We noticed you were sneezing a bit. Although you blamed this on “allergies to plants,” we know flu season is coming up. How do you stay germ free? Do you wash your shell for 20 seconds with soap and water? How about getting a flu shot?

Your camp song was so lovely, and we do hope you will keep your dear friends updated on your life in the future!

All the best,

The Red Cross social team

A Millennial Gives a Thumbs Up to New Social Giving Survey

I’m just going to come out and say what I sometimes feel I’m generally judged for.

I’m a millennial!

I text while I walk; I Snapchat a selfie; I express my emotional sorrow in an emoji; and I even shamelessly check the number of hearts I receive on Instagram.

But you know what? Today I’m going to be okay with this because a recent American Red Cross poll confirms there’s actually a lot of potential in using social media for good, especially when it comes to giving to charity. Alas, the world in which millennials live is supportive and giving! (Proving we’re not just a bunch of brainwashed social media users always willing to share our life story with you minute-by-minute, photo-by-photo).

70percent

Take the Ice Bucket Challenge. Whether or not you actively participated by dumping ice water on your head, you likely took some sort of action. Maybe it was liking your friend’s video on Facebook. Maybe you even donated yourself. In fact, the new Red Cross poll found that 70% of social media users would take some kind of action in response to a friend posting a story on social media about making a charitable donation. That “action” is represented by your retweet, or 10 seconds of your time to watch the video or, of course, making a charitable donation.

In general, social users are considered a charitable group, with 71% donating to a charity in the past 12 months (of those 6 in 10 donated online).

one third

So there you have it folks. Our use of social media can be meaningful and can make a difference! Just first, if you will, please like or retweet this post.

HillarySelfie

Monsters!!!

m40340214_m39840184_monsters-2Earlier this month the American Red Cross launched a brand new preparedness app called Monster Guard, the goal of which is to help children between the ages of 7 and 11 learn how to prevent emergencies and respond to natural and manmade disasters.

I happen to have an 8-year-old son, so this past weekend I downloaded the app, handed my phone to Will, and asked him to check it out. Here’s what 8-year-old Will and I had to say about Monster Guard!

The motto of the Monster Guard Academy is “Learn, Practice, Share”, so under the tutelage of the Academy’s top secret leader, players first learn new information, then practice using that information in a preparedness or response context, and finally share that information with their friends.

Will’s “adventure” (his words) as a recruit in the Academy began with an initiation during which he practiced maneuvering one of the monster recruits throughout the training facility and across a giant map of the United States. As Will’s monster recruit paused over each region, the leader – taking on a narrator role – shared information about which disasters are most common in that area of the country.

Completing the initiation stage unlocked the additional levels, all of which were associated with specific disasters or emergency-related tools. Will navigated through each level – from Fire Hazards and Emergency Supply Kits to Tornadoes and Severe Winter Weather – guiding his monster to either make the environment safer or move to a safer area. For example, in the Fire Hazards stage, Will directed his monster to turn off the stove, cover the fireplace, put the space heater in a safe place, and blow out the lit candle.

Will enjoyed his adventure, and I could tell in a variety of ways. First, he tackled every level – all 15, counting Initiation – before finally putting down the phone. Second, when I asked him midway through the Smoke Alarms level what he thought of the app, he was too caught up in his own little world to respond. And third, he told me so.

In his own words, “Initiation is a little slow, but after that it gets way cooler. I like the music, and that I got to graduate at the end. My favorite level was Tornado, but I also really liked learning about smoke alarms. Oh, and it’s funny when the top secret leader reveals who she really is!”

The only change Will would make had to do with the monster recruits who navigate through the Academy. Instead of directing a monster to do all of the tasks, Will would have preferred to create his own avatar – one that looked like him – to follow his instructions.

All in all, my 8-year-old found the Monster Guard app fun and engaging, and I love that he learned a little something along the way!

Learn more about Monster Guard and download the app here.

I have to wrap by sharing this funny “I’m so old” moment with all you parents out there… Before asking Will to review the app, I tried it out myself. I found the initiation level somewhat confusing to navigate, and I had trouble figuring out how to get back to the main menu to move on to the next level. Just as I began to type out that information, Will picked up the phone and breezed through everything with which I’d just struggled without even listening to the instructions. Nothing like being shown up by an 8-year-old…

Veterans Day 2014: Then and Now

The American Red Cross has long had a unique relationship with the military.

Today, we provide services like emergency communications and resiliency training. But did you know we pioneered the development of psychiatric nursing programs at veterans hospitals, made artificial limbs and helped rehabilitate amputees and blinded veterans during World War I? How about the recreation workers (“Donut Dollies”) serving in Vietnam?

Hop over to redcross.org to see a side-by-side comparison of how our services have met the changing needs of the military over the years, ever since the Spanish-American War.

 

Save the World: Make Missing Maps

This post was written by Dale Kunce, Senior Geospatial Engineer and GIS Team Lead at the American Red Cross. Dale is spearheading the American Red Cross’s involvement in the Missing Maps project.Liberia1

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 11 months, I don’t need to remind you that it’s been a rough year around the globe. I hear news of natural disasters, conflict, and disease outbreaks on the radio every morning… sometimes before I’ve even had my first cup of tea. It can be overwhelming.

But there is good news, too. People halfway around the world can help emergency responders and even prevent disasters from happening in the first place. How?

By making maps.

Updated maps can expedite the delivery of emergency supplies, determine where help is needed most, and even track the spread of diseases like Ebola. But right now, maps of the world’s most vulnerable communities just don’t exist. They’re nowhere to be found. A bunch of people (mappers and non-mappers alike) are getting together to fill in these “missing maps” before the next disaster strikes in these communities. The results can be lifesaving.

Here’s why:
As the world continues to urbanize, one billion people—1/7th of the world’s population—now live in urban slums. Cities often lack sufficient infrastructure to support the impromptu settlements that have sprung up around the world. Overcrowding, poorly built dwellings, and inadequate infrastructure has left hundreds of millions of people in an increased position of vulnerability to disaster and disease. When fires break out or earthquakes hit these areas, it’s really difficult for emergency responders to know who needs help. When Ebola starts spreading, it’s hard to track the virus if epidemiologists can’t conceptualize where towns are located. Sometimes, it’s impossible for help to even make it to the site of a disaster because there are no maps to guide the way.

Here’s how:
The Missing Maps Project brings volunteers together from around the world to fill in the gaps. On Friday, November 7 volunteers will use their own computers to trace existing satellite imagery to create maps of vulnerable communities. With numbers on our side, we can make a huge dent in the missing maps. And when disasters do strike, emergency responders will no longer have to play a guessing game to reach those in need.

We know it will work because we did it for West Africa, when more than 2,000 virtual mappers from over 100 countries made 10 million edits in OpenStreetMap over the last six-months. These contributions allow humanitarian organizations to track the Ebola virus and figure out which areas need the most help. This volume of work would have taken a professional mapper six to eight years to complete.

You can help!
Join a mapathon in your area on November 7 or another date in the nearby future. You can also contribute remotely any day of the week.

Missing Maps is a collaboration the American Red Cross, British Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders-UK, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

Passing on the Gifts

As we pulled into the village of Nomonge in Tanzania, I notice a woman walking up the red dirt road in a swirl of blue and yellow wraps.  This village is part of a program supported by Red Cross and Heifer International helping vulnerable families – those with serious illnesses, disabilities, widowed, or suffering from extreme poverty. Additionally, the program supports orphaned and vulnerable children.

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I get out of the car and begin to take photos of a chicken coop.  Since I am focused solely on looking through the camera, I am completely startled by the loud squawk and chickens plummeting passed my lens. I look up to see the woman in the blue and yellow wraps with a mischievous grin on her face.

We are in Nomonge for the “Passing on the Gifts” ceremony which is a principle of Heifer.  When you receive support from one of their programs you are asked to pass it.  If you are given training, you are asked to train others.  If you receive chickens, once your flock has grown, you pass chickens on to help a new family.

In this case, vulnerable people received six chickens and training on how to care for them in a program funded by the American Red Cross.  The training teaches people to build coops and hatcheries, identify and treat poultry diseases, and prepare chicken feed at home.

During the ceremony five people receive chickens and are all excited to begin their journey to having a stable income and food source.DSC03055

Afterwards, I walk over to the woman in the wraps.  Her name is Hadija and she is a success story.  She brought two chickens from her flock to pass on.  When her husband died, she was fearful that she and her younger children would become a burden to her adult children.  She was determined not to let that happen.

She took the training and received her six chickens.  With careful care, her flock thrived.  In fact, not only does she have plenty of  meat and eggs, but she also extra chickens to sell.  She uses the income to buy other food for her family and she recently purchased five goats.

As we talk, she pulls out a 1000 TSH note (Tanzania Schilling worth about 60 cents USD) from the folds of her skirt.  She hands it to me.  I start to protest, worried that she thought she needed to pay me for the support Red Cross has provided.  Luckily, members of the Tanzanian Red Cross team explain this is a traditional expression of friendship.

I hope one day I can return to Nomonge to visit my new friend, Hadija.  Since our relationship started with her throwing chickens at me, I am dying to see what happens with the goats.

Jana Sweeny is the Director of International Communications for the American Red Cross. 

No Tricks, Lots of Treats: Halloween Safety

Ah, Halloween. The time of the year to let your creativity and pop culture aptitude shine. In fact, our favorite unofficial mascot, Clarence Barton, went all in this year:

Millions of us will take to the streets (er, sidewalks. Safety first!) to collect oodles of delicious treats. And most of us know some basic tips, like carrying a flashlight to stay visible and light your path. Whether you’re a Trick-or-Treater or a giver-of-treats, here are some key tips to remember this year:

For the kiddos:

  • Costumes:
    • Use only flame-resistant costumes.HalloweenTips_forest
    • Add reflective tape to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags.
    • Have everyone wear light-colored clothing to be seen.
    • Instead of masks which can cover the eyes and make it hard to see, use face paint instead.
  • Out and about:
    • Plan the Trick-or-Treat route – make sure adults know where children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.
    • Visit only the homes that have a porch light on.
    • Accept treats at the door – never go inside.
    • Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.
    • Be cautious around strange animals, especially dogs.

For the candy givers:

  • Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps.
  • Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over.
  • Restrain your pets.

BONUS TIP: Did your little Elsa or Batman fall and scrape their knee while running to the neighbor  house for a Snickers bar? Make sure you have the free Red Cross First Aid App to cover all your emergency first aid needs. Find this and all of the Red Cross apps by searching for American Red Cross in the app store for your mobile device or by going to redcross.org/apps.

What ProPublica and NPR Won’t Tell You About the Red Cross

Laura Howe, Vice President, Public Relations

ProPublica and NPR have been hyping their sensationalized attack on the Red Cross response to Superstorm Sandy, in distortion-filled stories that are the result of months of reporting that sought only to find negative information.

Both of these pieces blatantly disregard the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who urgently needed our services were helped with food, water, shelter, supplies and other assistance. The results speak for themselves.  Our 17,000 Sandy workers – nearly all of them volunteers– served more than 17.5 million meals and snacks, distributed 7 million relief items, and provided 74,000 overnight stays in shelters.

There are some other things you need to know about ProPublica and NPR and how they operate.  ProPublica, in particular, has been investigating the Red Cross and Sandy since late winter, and continues to issue a public plea for information and documents in an effort to “dig up dirt”. During this investigation, the Red Cross answered more than 100 questions from ProPublica and NPR, in writing and in person. The three reporters visited our headquarters in Washington, DC and interviewed the head of our disaster response operations for more than an hour. You’ll see only one short quote from that interview in the ProPublica piece. Very little, if any, of the other information we provided in our dozens of other responses made into either piece.

Chief among those omitted items were surveys showing that three out of four Sandy clients in New York and New Jersey expressed a positive experience with the Red Cross. Instead of citing worker surveys showing 70% volunteers were pleased with their volunteer experience, the reporters chose to focus on three unhappy workers-all of whom had a very limited view of the disaster operation. We’ve created a myth versus fact document that answers their claims and shows you exactly what other items NPR and ProPublica chose to leave out of their stories. We hope you will take time to read the full accounting of our response.

In addition, all three reporters have aggressively pursued unsuspecting Red Cross volunteers from across the country. Their tactics included hounding our volunteers with unwelcome phone calls and emails-to the point of calling their neighbors and relatives in an attempt to track them down. The same people who selflessly gave their time to help disaster victims have had to explain to their friends and relatives why investigative reporters were looking for them.  To say this has been a witch-hunt is an understatement and our volunteers frequently felt like the prey.

We know that these reporters have talked to Red Cross volunteers and other people who have shared the good work of the Red Cross during Sandy – and we know it because these supporters told us. But those comments were not  included in what is a one-sided story. A Florida emergency management official even wrote a blog post about his hour long conversation with ProPublica. That’s the sort of perspective that never made it into either piece.

There are always disagreements among workers about how we can best deliver our services, but the results speak for themselves.  In the chaotic first few hours and days after a disaster, it is impossible to meet every need, especially on a disaster as large as Sandy. No one claims to be perfect, and no one is. But the fact is, that when problems occur, the Red Cross tries to fix them quickly, and we always strive to do better.

As we do with all major disasters, the Red Cross proactively sought feedback from hundreds of volunteers, staff and others as part of a thorough review of its response to Sandy.  Based on that feedback, and our own evaluation, we implemented changes to strengthen our service delivery, which we routinely do.

People across the country generously donated to the Red Cross after Sandy, and we have spent those donations quickly and wisely. The fact is that we have spent or committed to spend $310 million, which is 99 percent of the $311.5 million raised for our Sandy response.

And, one other note-these stories allege that the Red Cross cares more about publicity than the people it serves. This is patently untrue. The needs of the people we serve drive every decision we make. Period. That perspective never made it into ProPublica’s story either. We respond to 70,000 disasters every year-most of which are home fires that never make news. If we were in this for the publicity, why would the Red Cross make that level of effort for work the public never sees?

This kind of advocacy reporting does a disservice to the resilient people of New York and New Jersey. To sensationalize and capitalize on their misery for the sake of ratings and web clicks is reprehensible. Sadly, it also does a disservice to the selfless Red Cross workers who were part of this major response. The people affected by Sandy and Isaac and the people who helped them deserve better than this kind of treatment.

The bottom line is that Americans trust the Red Cross and should continue to do so.

Laura Howe serves as the vice president of public relations for the American Red Cross. Before joining the Red Cross she worked as a broadcast journalist. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.