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Remembering Japan

Milestones are funny things – sometimes they’re cause for celebration, sometimes for reflection.

For me, the anniversary of the Japan earthquake and tsunami is always for reflection.

I was getting ready to go to bed (I think it was sometime near 11pm)…the TV suddenly snapped into a breaking news story. I hopped on Twitter to see what I could learn, and it was true, Japan had been shaking for MINUTES. Now, I live in California, and we occasionally get earthquakes, but the thought of my world shaking uncontrollably for MINUTES was mind blowing.

We all saw what happened after – we saw footage of the waves literally wiping towns off the map. On the West Coast, we watched the wave sets get interrupted and altered by the quake and tsunami. The American Red Cross was reaching out to our partners in Japan shortly thereafter and became part of the world-wide effort to provide relief to those who would be on a very long road to recovery.

As disasters unfold on TV, we all feel helpless – I don’t care how seasoned you may be, seeing the strife, the sheer magnitude of the destruction, and knowing that there is a VERY long road ahead makes you pause, and makes you wonder, “what can I do?”

Here’s the easiest, and most rewarding thing you can do: Become a Red Cross volunteer. Call your local chapter, ask how you can get involved, learn about the MANY ways you can help with disasters…because big or small, they happen every day in the U.S. and the Red Cross is able to respond through our dedicated, talented, and caring volunteer network.

Don’t let the next big disaster we have in the U.S. leave you feeling helpless. Don’t be forced to watch your TV wondering what you can do to help…

Empower yourself. Become a volunteer.

From the Archives: Women of the Canteen Service

March is Women’s History Month! And to celebrate it, we will be highlighting two volunteer services of the American Red Cross in which women played a predominant role. Our first post will cover the American Red Cross Canteen Service.

During World War I, transportation difficulties and congestion at important railroad junctions often made it impossible for soldiers to receive adequate meals prior to boarding and disembarking. The United States government requested the American Red Cross provide refreshments at railroad junctions, both at home and abroad, for the military on troop trains. As a result, the canteen service was founded and it grew quickly.

By the end of 1917, there were 85 canteen depots, 15 station restaurants, and 430 smaller canteens.

The American Red Cross in France: Line of Communication Canteen, 1919, Cameron Burnside.

The American Red Cross in France: Line of Communication Canteen, 1919, Cameron Burnside.

The American Red Cross Canteen Service also served allied soldiers from France, Italy, and Great Britain. Originally the canteen service provided support to canteens operated by national chapters of Allied forces, but this support gave way to the establishment of American Red Cross canteens near the front lines and along railway junctions. In France, American Red Cross canteens were serving meals every month to nearly a million men in transit or on leave in Paris.

American and French Servicemen enjoy themselves at an American Red Cross canteen in Bordeaux, France, 1917-1918.

American and French Servicemen enjoy themselves at an American Red Cross canteen in Bordeaux, France, 1917-1918.

By the end of the war, the Red Cross was operating 700 fixed canteens. Refreshments were served to nearly 40 million members of the armed forces. The canteen service distributed 1.5 million gallons of coffee, 15 million sandwiches, and 11 million cookies, doughnuts, and pies. This work was only accomplished due to the sheer number of women who found time away from their home, children, and wartime jobs to volunteer; some 55,000 women volunteered with the Red Cross during World War I.

The canteen corps of the San Francisco Red Cross chapter lines up for a photo at the Ferry Building in 1917.

The canteen corps of the San Francisco Red Cross chapter lines up for a photo at the Ferry Building in 1917.

Typhoon Haiyan: A First-Hand Account

This post was written by Sasha Poll, an American Red Cross staff member deployed to the Philippines in early February.

For the past month, I’ve been in the Philippines helping the global Red Cross network to distribute cash grants to families affected by Typhoon Haiyan. We have succeeded in getting cash in the hands of more than 57,000 families. In the process, I’ve had the privilege of talking with dozens of survivors about their experiences since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall about three and a half months ago. I recently spoke with Robinson Sandagan, chairman of a barangay (village) called Talisay on the island of Leyte. Here’s what he had to say*.

Sasha Poll speaks with Robinson Sandagan (left) and a Philippine Red Cross volunteer (right) in Talisay.

Photo credit: Hiba Anwar

Can you tell me a little about the days leading up to Typhoon Yolanda [globally known as Haiyan]?
When the storm came, the whole community was very scared – I tried to get the community to evacuate to the centers.

What type of damage did your town experience?
There were three deaths in the barangay: one was killed by a hollow block, one was killed by a falling coconut tree, and one died of hypothermia – one of the deaths was my nephew. After the storm, my roof flew off my house and three coconut trees flattened my kitchen.

How will this Red Cross cash grant help your family?
Within five days of the typhoon, I had patched my roof, but this cash grant will help me repair my kitchen, which is still destroyed from the storm.

How are your neighbors recovering from the storm?
The families have come together to help one another recover – we call this kind of shared help “bayanihan.” After the storm hit, five families left the barangay, but after three months, everyone is back in Talisay and the community continues to work together. We have kept up our spirits by playing the Philippines national pastime – basketball. Groups come together and play in competitions to entertain the community and lighten the heavy, everyday work of rehabilitation.

* Robinson’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Nurse Assistant Training Provides Pathway to a New Career

Graduation3 (1)
This post is from Jai Nassim

While most people were dreaming of tropical weather, I plunged deeper into the Polar Vortex this winter on a trip to Ohio for a video project with our partner Walmart that will highlight the Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training program. During my trip, I got to meet and interview graduates such as Jody Gabriel and Carrie Hodges-Gay at the Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter during the program’s graduation and job fair. Their heartwarming stories of triumph reminded me that anything is possible.

Jody and Carrie are recent graduates of the training program, and recipients of $1,000 Walmart stipends that helped to cover the majority of the costs for the training and course materials.

Jody Gabriel2 (1)Jody, a 37 year-old single mother of a 12 year-old son and four year-old daughter is preparing for the state exam to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) to support her family. “I found myself unemployed and a single mom of two children, and I needed to find a way to provide for them. I always wanted to do nursing and thought this would be a good place to start.”

“This course, with my prior job skills, will open many doors to employment that will help me and my children remain in our home and [maintain a] stable lifestyle.”

Carrie started her career in healthcare in the 1970s, but had to put her career dreams aside to raise nine children as a single mother. Now, at 59, Carrie—with the encouragement of her husband, nine children and 31 grandchildren—went back to school to become a CNA. Carrie is now happily employed and pursuing her passion of caring for others.

“I worked every job I could to raise my family. I focused on teaching my children to work and get an education and a career, not just a job. Out of nine children I have six [working] in healthcare fields.” Carrie Hodges-Gay1 (1)

“Now that my children are all grown, it’s my time to put my heart back into healthcare. I’m ready to go.”

The Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training program provides skills needed to become a CNA. Students are taught how to provide basic care and support for residents in long-term care facilities, private homes, and in hospitals and hospice settings. Graduates earn average wage increases of approximately 20 percent, and more than 86 percent of former students said the program provided them with the skills and confidence to be effective CNAs.

With a certification exam pass rate greater than 90 percent, the Red Cross training program is helping communities across the country satisfy the growing healthcare need for qualified CNAs. To learn more about the Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training program, visit our website.

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head!

I live in Southern California. If you’ve been locked in by snow for the past two months, you may not know this, but we’re suffering from the exact opposite problem that you’re currently suffering from – we’ve been receiving NO water-based gifts from the sky… meaning we’re in a pretty severe, and slightly scary drought situation. So when it rained last night for a few hours, you could almost hear the rain-dance chants from across the state. Mind you, we’re nowhere near being out of the woods on this – we’d probably need

We’re expecting to get absolutely drenched this weekend. This is good, and this is bad. Obviously, California’s dirt desperately needs hydration, but because we’re expected to basically get slammed this weekend, there’s a high potential for flooding. In fact, they’re expecting this incoming storm to be the biggest, wettest storm SoCal has experienced in about two years.

That’s a lot of rain.

Have you ever “accidentally” killed a house plant, then made some really sad attempt at saving it by watering it? Remember how the water usually just “sits” at the surface for a while? That’s a risk we could face here in the Sunshine State with this incoming storm – the ground is just so dry! That’s why I spent a little bit of time making sure my house and family were ready to ride out the storm this weekend.

Here’s what we did:

1) Cleaned out the rain gutters – they were pretty much packed with dirt and pine needles. If hit with rain, that would just cake together, cause a hot mess, and basically render our rain gutters useless.

2) Sandbagged openings to the under part of the house. I don’t want water pooling under the house – that just sounds like an issue.

3) Went grocery shopping – There will be no reason to head to the store while it’s raining. I know what meals I’ll be making on what days, and I’m adequately stocked. If there’s one thing I really hate about rain in SoCal, it’s DRIVING in the rain in SoCal – it’s true, there are a lot of bad drivers here.

4) Pulled out my Rain Gear – it’s waterproof and fashionable, what more could you ask for?

Things I still need to do (and you should do too)
1) Find my Weather Radio (it’s been hiding since we moved)
2) Find my flashlights (that’s pretty important in case the power goes out)
3) Review the Red Cross Flood Safety Tips (yes, I don’t have EVERY SINGLE preparedness tip memorized)

Stay dry, my friends, and keep those rain dances, chants, rituals coming, so I don’t have to write about drought preparedness later (yikes!).

Tips to Keep That Winter Workout Fun

This blog post is from Andrew MacPherson, MD
Member, American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council

Photo - Expert Skiiers Only (2) (1)

Pop Quiz! Name those Olympic injury owners (answers at the bottom):

1) Which US snowboarder separated her shoulder while practicing her moves on the half pipe?
2) Who was hit by a speeding bobsled?
3) What famous Russian skater pulled out of the men’s competition because of severe back pain?

You may not be an Olympic athlete, but like me, you are inspired by them to get moving in our winter wonderland. This can often lead to injuries. Do you know all you need to keep safe?

Here are my top tips for preventing common winter injuries.

1. Runners. You have it extra tough trying to stay warm and dry without getting bogged down. Whether you are a casual jogger or elite marathoner, when you run in winter weather wear layered lightweight clothing; it keeps you warmer than a single heavy coat. Moisture-wicking layers can keep you dry and moving when the temperature drops.

2. Skis and Skates. Winter sports mean skiing, snowboarding, skating or ice hockey, and enthusiasts have a range of proper safety equipment designed for protection. But it only works if you wear it, so never skimp on recommended gear – especially helmets and goggles.

3. Off-road. If you prefer your activities off the beaten track, always think obstacles: snow-covered trees and rocks can really ruin your day. Outdoor ice skaters should be sure their lake is frozen safely solid by consulting local official sources. Most importantly, let someone know where you’ll be and when to expect you back for that cup of hot chocolate.

4. Brrrrrr. When you work up that outdoor sweat, it’s easy to forget that Jack Frost is still ready to bite. Know the signs of frostbite – numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration or a waxy feeling – and get inside and get help. If you are feeling confused, dizzy, exhausted or experience severe shivering, those are signs of hypothermia and it’s time get medical attention pronto.

5. Sunblock. Just because it is cold doesn’t mean it isn’t sunny! Sunlight can reflect off the snow and getting sunburn can be faster than on the beach. Wear a good activity-proof sunblock whenever you are active outside.

Still have questions? The Red Cross has a great, FREE First Aid app that covers all the basics. Download it from Apple iTunes or Google Play Store or go to the Red Cross mobile apps page.

1) Arielle Gold
2) An Sochi bobsled track worker was hit by a bobsled
3) Evgeni Plushenko

You Never Know…


Many of us who have taken a Red Cross CPR/First Aid class always hope we never have to put our training to work. If we do, it usually means something bad just happened.

According to a Red Cross survey, 1 in 4 Americans have been in a situation where someone needed CPR. If there’s approximately 317 million people in the U.S. that’s a LOT of people who have witnessed a potentially life-threatening situation.

Such a situation unfolded yesterday on the side of a highway in Florida…Pamela Rauseo’s nephew Sebastian suddenly stopped breathing while he was in his car seat…and they were in the middle of a traffic jam.

Emergency situations like this rarely give you warning that they’re about to happen or happen somewhere where you can get immediate help. However, being trained in First Aid and CPR can greatly help you respond to the situation, which in turn, gives the person being helped a much better chance of surviving. Thankfully, Pamela jumped into action, called for help, and CPR was being performed shortly thereafter. The latest reports indicate that Sebastian is in stable condition.

We wish Pamela’s family all the best, and would like to encourage you to consider taking a Red Cross CPR course – you never know who’s life you may have to save, or where you will have to save it, but having the skills and knowledge of how to respond will help you feel much better equipped to help.

In Celebration of Love your Pets Day

By Deborah Mandell, VMD
Member, American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council

Pop Quiz*

1. Your dog tipped over a bottle of antifreeze in the garage and is standing in a puddle of liquid. Is there anything to worry about?
2. Your cat jumps onto the counter, knocks over the Valentine’s Day roses and lands in the broken glass. Her paw starts bleeding. What do you do?
3. Your dog won’t stop licking his paws after playing in the snow. What should you do?

Hi! I’m Dr. Deborah Mandell. I helped develop the new American Red Cross Pet First Aid App, and also the Dog and Cat First Aid guides and Pet First Aid course.

Loving your furry friends means knowing what to do in an emergency. Today is Love Your Pet Day. I’m celebrating with Sonewmana (we call her Mana), Polly and Ranger (Power Ranger Gio, the brown ranger!) and it’s the perfect time to make sure you know how to recognize and handle a pet emergency.

Whether it’s a common injury or contact with a pet-poisonous substance, the American Red Cross Pet First Aid course will give you key first aid guidance and need-to-know information. The course is available in some areas and allows owners to practice treating a cardiac or breathing emergency.

The Red Cross Pet First Aid app is a great go-to source for important pet care information too. The app walks you through more than 25 common emergency medical situations for cats and dogs and includes how to perform CPR with the newest guidelines and how to care for choking. It covers how to include your pet in your emergency and disaster preparedness planning and is loaded with useful information on routine pet care, too.

You can get the app in the Apple iTunes or Google Play Store or go to the Red Cross mobile apps page.

Don’t let Love Your Pet Day go by without making sure your love includes pet first aid.

Photo - Dr. Mandell Dogs

1. Antifreeze can be deadly if your dog licked it. Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately. An antidote can be started if caught early, if not, antifreeze can be fatal.
2. Remove any embedded objects. Clean the wound with a warm water/Epson salt solution. Apply gauze and direct pressure until bleeding stops. If blood soaks through the first gauze, place another gauze on top, do not remove first gauze. You can place a light bandage on the paw and take your cat to the vet.
3. Puppy’s paws might be irritated from ice balls or de-icing chemicals. Gently wash his paws, including in between the toes, with warm water. Check for any cuts or wounds. Always clean your dog’s paws when he comes inside. Use pet friendly salt or de-icing products.

Diary of Red Cross Relief Worker: Entry 2

This post is from Winnie Romeril, who is deployed to the Philippines to help with the Red Cross relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan

Today I sat with Tito Aure and Lady B. Tito is a university professor who sits on the local Red Cross board and acts as their MC at important events, such as today’s visit of Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross. The microphone Tito grips is repaired with cellophane tape and the cord is woven through his fingers in a special pattern, the only way it will work. “This microphone is a survivor of Yolanda, just like us,” he flashes a wry smile, using the name Philippinos call last November’s killer-storm Typhoon Haiyan.

Tito sent his family to Manila before Yolanda hit. He stayed in Tacloban, working late into the night pre-landfall with hundreds of other Red Cross volunteers packaging food and other relief items for distribution post-landfall. “We knew it was a big storm coming, but we did not understand this term ‘storm surge.’ It’s even hard for us to say, ‘storm surge,’” he slowly enunciates.

“Lady B” as she is known on the air, a.k.a. Evelyn Baccol, owns a local TV channel in Tacloban, Anaton Channel 7, AAC-24. She quickly agrees about the confusing term. “We reported on the storm surge, but no one really understood how it would look. If they had explained to us that it would be like a tidal wave or a tsunami, we would have reported it that way. Then the people would have understood and moved inland. Lives could have been saved.” The storm death toll stands at 6,200 with 1,785 still missing.

Lady B lost all her possessions in the storm- in her home and, it seems more importantly to her, at her office, including all her equipment for broadcasting, interviewing and video recording. She doesn’t talk about the night Yolanda made landfall. I can only imagine why. Harrowing accounts of narrowly escaping from fast-rising ocean waters in your living room and treading water in the dark while your neighbors corpses float by are practically commonplace here in Tacloban. “I was so badly traumatized I could not report on the situation.” She left the city for a while to stay with her parents in Samar, the island to the north. “I am back now, but I still go home often. Having family is so comforting,” she says holding a professional grade camera in one hand, a gift from her daughter who works in Oklahoma.

I ask, “May I take a photo? I want my friends to meet you.”

They lean in for the shot. A pink banner in solidarity with Tacloban from Red Cross chapters across the Philippines serves as a backdrop. “Tell them we are smiling, not like victims, but as survivors. We have survived and we will rebuild,” Tito says. “Please tell everyone you talk to how grateful we are for their prayers, support, every little show of solidarity has meant so much to us. Thank them all.”

Be Your Own Valentine

The American Red Cross aims to help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies in a variety of ways. Dedicated employees and volunteers meet the basic needs – shelter, food, and clothing – of those affected by natural and manmade disasters, communicate emergency messages between those serving in our Armed Forces and their loved ones back home, and teach lifesaving skills like water safety, first aid, and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to community members of all ages.

But the American Red Cross can only do so much. At some point we – the people the organization has informed and trained and supported – have to do our part. So that we can respond swiftly and appropriately should an unavoidable crisis affect us, we need to build emergency preparedness kits, create disaster action plans, stock first aid kits, and review first aid skills. And so that we can lessen our risk of suffering from an (in many cases) avoidable crisis – such as a heart attack caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, for example – we need to take prevention into our own hands.

So today, in honor of Heart Health Month and Valentine’s Day, here are a few tips to help you strengthen and protect your heart.

  • Visit your doctor for an annual check-up, even if you feel healthy.
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your height and build.
  • Exercise (at a moderate intensity level, or working up to a moderate intensity level) at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Make healthy food choices (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and non- or low-fat dairy) and avoid processed food as often as possible.
  • Drink more water and cut down on salt consumption.
  • Manage blood pressure and control cholesterol by eating foods low in saturated and trans fats.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Stay positive. Make small changes, one at a time if necessary, and recognize that the journey is toward a healthy lifestyle, not a perfect lifestyle.
  • Give yourself credit. Set small goals and reward yourself (with treats other than sweets) when you reach them.

This year, be your own Valentine and give yourself the gift of a healthy heart!

As always, knowing how to recognize the signs of a heart attack and perform CPR can save lives and are therefore of the utmost importance. Click here to find an American Red Cross First Aid and CPR class in your area.

Source: University of Wisconsin Health