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Making maps on the road in Canaan, Haiti

Mapping in CanaanThis post was written by Emily Eros, a member of the American Red Cross mapping team, who recently traveled to Canaan, Haiti. You can see more about the Red Cross’ work in the country at redcross.org/haiti.

Earlier this month, the American Red Cross took its mapping efforts on the road in Canaan, Haiti, where we piloted Mapillary: a collaborative photo mapping service that allows users to upload and share street-level images of places around the world. The service is similar to Google StreetView, except that anyone with a smartphone or computer is able to contribute.

We initiated this trip as a complement to our MissingMaps project, which utilizes volunteers who trace satellite imagery in order to put the world’s most vulnerable communities on the map.

Canaan is an emerging community that sprung up after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, when displaced people resettled in the hills on the northern outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Haitians continue to move to Canaan and invest in new homes and communities there.

As Canaan develops, it becomes more and more important to have information about where features like roads, buildings, schools, health facilities, and water resources are located. This helps with urban planning efforts and informs first responders and humanitarians during disasters.

Anyone with a smartphone can use the Mapillary app to take photos and upload them to the site. To cover a large area like Canaan, we decided to mount cameras inside of a vehicle and drive the roads, recording images as we traveled. We did the mapping with basic, inexpensive technology: a camera, a suction cup mount, a GPS unit, and our smartphones.mapcamera

We attached the camera to the inside of our vehicle, set the camera to record an image every two seconds, and had the GPS device record our tracks so that we’d know where each image was taken. Then we hopped in the vehicle and set off for Canaan. This method enabled us to capture more than 5,000 images—covering nearly 70 miles of Canaan’s roads—in just two days!

The images are now up on Mapillary (with faces and license plates blurred for privacy). You can stop by their site to see where we traveled and explore the photos. We’re planning to map the rest of Canaan over the next few months, and revisit periodically so we can watch it change over time. Want to get more involved? Sign up for an OSM account and then head over to help map Canaan! We’ve created this tracing guide to help you get started.

From the Archives for Women’s History Month: “Marjorie Bonynge and Volunteer Partnership in World War II”


Along with many other New York City residents, Marjorie Bonynge went to Pier 88 on West 49 Street to see the wreckage of the French liner which had caught fire and capsized while being converted into a U.S. troop transport.

The burning of the ship in February 1942, just two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the U.S. into World War II, galvanized the city. Like many other concerned citizens, Marjorie decided to help with the war effort.

Marjorie’s father was a surgeon and her mother a nurse, so she came from a background of public service and helping others. The 27-year-old enjoyed life in the city and her association with the Junior League of New York. It was the Junior League’s service requirement that brought Marjorie to the American Red Cross.

In 1941, in coordination with the Red Cross, the New York Junior League began a War Relief Unit. Junior League volunteers worked as Red Cross Gray Ladies, nurse’s aides and hospital escorts. They prepared surgical dressings, knitted sweaters for Allied soldiers and sailors,and enrolled in first aid classes.

While Marjorie found these activities admirable, she wanted something more action-oriented. She loved to drive, so she joined the Red Cross Motor Corps. And because she was familiar with medical procedures, she drove one of the first blood donor service-mobiles.

JL car2

The Motor Corps was staffed almost entirely by women, who clocked more than 61 million miles nationwide while answering 9 million calls to transport the sick and wounded, deliver supplies and take volunteers and nurses to and from their posts. In all, 45,000 women served in the Motor Corps during World War II. Most drove their own cars and many completed training in auto mechanics so they could make their own repairs.

Shown below is one of Marjorie’s assignment cards, sending her to Lynbrook, Long Island, for “bleeding from 2 to 7.” Besides driving, Marjorie’s duties included doing hemoglobin tests once at the donor site. She also oversaw the nurses who were taking temperatures and checking pulses.

post card2

The blood that was drawn from donors was used only for the military. The Red Cross civilian blood program did not begin until 1948. Shown here is a poster recruiting blood donors.

Blood that was drawn from donors was used only for the military. The Red Cross civilian blood program did not begin until 1948. Shown here is a blood donor recruitment poster.


Marjorie Strange portrait2

Volunteers were required to wear a Red Cross uniform. While Marjorie (shown at right) wore her uniform with pride, she did complain, “Hot, those uniforms were. . .we had to wear those lightweight wools year-round, with a shirt inside and a wide black belt.” Cotton uniforms were available, but for indoor use only, not for drivers. Since Marjorie was both driving and working indoors, she was stuck wearing the woolen uniform.

Her daughter, Susan Strange, says of her mother’s service, “My mother often spoke fondly of her days navigating New York’s streets as she did her share to help the ‘boys’ fighting overseas. She loved to drive, and she wanted to contribute to the war effort, so volunteering with the Red Cross Motor Corps was a perfect fit.”

Top Tips for Staying Safe on Spring Break: Water Safety Edition

Post adapted from March 19, 2014 blog by By Peter Wernicki, MD American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.

How will you remember this year’s spring break? If you want to stick with sun tans, ice cream and ocean breezes and avoid scary or dangerous situations, follow the lead of American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council member Peter Wernicki, MD.


“As an orthopedic surgeon, I see plenty of people who injure themselves in and around water on their vacations,” said Wernicki. ”There are the typical slips and falls around pools and the joint and muscle tears from water injuries. I know that when good times aren’t safe times, it can take all the fun out of a poolside getaway.”

Here are a few tips to make sure spring break doesn’t include a trip to the emergency room:

  1. Don’t drink and dive. I know day drinking at the pool or beach drink is tempting. But nearly 70% of water-related deaths among teens and adults involve alcohol, especially diving injuries. Save the toasts until after the pool, beach or water park. Remember: alcohol affects your judgment and coordination. High temperatures and a hot sun up the ante. Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and remember the sunscreen too – skin cancer is a real killer.

  2. Buddy up. Even at supervised pools and parks, go with a friend and keep an eye on each other. If you have kids make sure they are using the buddy system in the water – and if they are not good swimmers, make sure you have “arms’ reach” supervision.  If possible, always swim where a lifeguard is present.


  3. Enroll before you go. Take a Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED class now and be ready for fun as well as the unexpected. Make sure kids and adults know how to swim.

  4. Pack tools not toys. Most people mistakenly believe that items like foam pool noodles, water wings and inflatable rings make children safer in the water. But the reality is that air and foam-filled flotation toys are no substitute for life jackets or other water safety devices; don’t expect them to be a lifesaving device. Make sure that Coast Guard-approved life vests are available and worn, especially on boats and jet skis.

  5. Steer clear of breath-holding games. This goes for hyper-ventilation (fast shallow breathing) games while swimming too. It doesn’t take much to go black and go under.

  6. If the thunder roars, get indoors. If you’re at an outdoor pool, keep an eye on the weather and head to dry shelter before lightning strikes.


My Word Against Ebola: LOVE

This post was written by Samuel Estabrook, as part of the Words Against Ebola campaign – a Red Cross initiative to promote knowledge, fight stigma, alleviate fear and overcome complacency through the sharing of positive words. The American Red Cross deployed Samuel to Liberia in January. Samuel is tweeting from Liberia @mapping_Sam.   Photo courtesy Stephen Ryan/IFRC

Love is a blessing and a curse in the time of Ebola. Caring for loved ones while they’re suffering puts caretakers’ own health at risk. In West Africa, it is people’s love for family and neighbors that has caused an unprecedented chain of exposure and more than 3,000 confirmed Ebola deaths in Liberia alone. In West Africa, more than 10,000 people have died from the virus. 

Life with Ebola has challenged love, too.  Many people who have had the disease face painful stigma and isolation from their own friends and communities. At the height of the outbreak, the threat of catching Ebola was so great that love between friends and family became insularly protective — better to ostracize others to protect home and family. The trauma of stigma and isolation pose new challenges to a nation still plagued by memories of war. Red Cross volunteers’ promotion of psychosocial support has been welcomed, and the scars that are still fresh will hopefully fade as the fear and stigma subside.

Over time, better understanding about Ebola promotes love, too. I’ve seen it. When a Liberian Red Cross volunteer survived the disease, she experienced no stigma from her colleagues, friends, or family.

I saw love in a different way, by having the honor to work with the safe and dignified burial teams in the urban capital of Liberia: Monrovia. Day after day these burial teams traveled to welcoming and weary communities alike, stressing the urgency and importance of safety — love for their countrymen and women was their motivation. Their mission was clearly from the heart, as their comradery and responsibility for each other’s safety was only greater strengthened by their shared experiences and concern for fellow Liberians.

Love will prevail through the fear. As we commemorate the Ebola outbreak’s one year mark, Liberia has sadly confirmed a new case. Our love as donors, doctors, nurses, humanitarians, volunteers, researchers, specialists, and the concerned public will be needed as the battle continues in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The American response, alongside the Liberian government and dozens of organizations that labor tirelessly to eradicate Ebola must continue to support those immediately and indirectly affected by the outbreak.

Our love, shipped from abroad in so many forms, pales in comparison to the love and compassion evident within the communities’ hearts and minds in every part of Liberia. I’m humbled by my experience, and only wish for love to triumph above all. Thank you for reading, and may your Words Against Ebola be truer and stronger than ever before.

You can join the #WordsAgainstEbola campaign at wordsagainstebola.org.

@ClaraBarton, Is That You? Envisioning Our Founder’s First Tweets

In honor of March is Red Cross Month, we decided to show our founder, Clara Barton, how to tweet and celebrate with us. Like most who first start out on Twitter, it took a bit of time to acclimate! Limiting thoughts to 140 characters, what to talk about and, of course, how to properly use a #hashtag were all a fun challenge.

We’re thrilled to see Clara has been hard at work getting the word out about the Red Cross and our amazing everyday heroes.



 Don’t know about Henry Dunant? The story of how the American Red Cross started is pretty cool.



Clara was very excited to hear that we have over 2 MILLION Twitter followers!



Check out Clara Barton’s work searching for missing men before the American Red Cross was even founded, and what we’re still doing today to reconnect families separated by crisis, conflict or migration.


Please note that these are fake tweets from Clara Barton; the American Red Cross social team at NHQ only manages one account. Follow us @RedCross or find your local chapter’s account on RedCross.org. 

To Save, To Serve, To Build

It often takes a little nudge for us to get up off the couch, to get the ball rolling, or to take on something new.

Many American Red Cross volunteers credit a disaster – a large-scale national event, like a hurricane or series of wildfires, or even a smaller event that affects family members, friends or community members closer to home – as the nudge they needed to join the organization. Other volunteers come on board after learning new information in a health and safety class, at a volunteer fair or at a community event. Though each volunteer’s story is different, in most cases something or someone served is the motivation they needed to become involved.

In his 2015 Presidential Proclamation of March as American Red Cross Month, President Obama encouraged, “During American Red Cross Month, let us ask what we can do for those around us and resolve to make service to others a part of our everyday lives.”

Perhaps your story as a Red Cross volunteer begins today. Perhaps the arrival – the proclamation – of March as Red Cross Month will serve as the nudge, the sign, the motivation you need to join us as we preserve and renew that humanitarian impulse to save, to serve, and to build.


What might you do as a Red Cross volunteer, you ask? Let me give you an idea.

As a Volunteer Management volunteer, assist with volunteer recruitment, orientation, placement, training, and retention.

As a Disaster Services volunteer/Disaster Action Team member, provide food, shelter, and comfort for individuals and families affected by disasters.

As a Disaster Preparedness volunteer, educate individuals and groups on how to be prepared before disasters strike.

As a Public Affairs volunteer, tell the Red Cross story during disasters.

As a Health and Safety Instructor, teach community classes such as CPR, First Aid, AED, Water Safety, Lifeguarding, and Babysitting to adults, teenagers, and youth.

As a First Aid Team volunteer, provide basic level first aid response and services.

As an Armed Forces Caseworker, ensure delivery of emergency communications between members of the military and their families.

As a Blood Donor Recruiter, work with individuals, groups, and companies to recruit blood donors and promote blood drives.

As a Blood Drive volunteer, greet and register blood donors.

As a Clerical volunteer, assist with administrative tasks in the office.

As a Special Events volunteer, assist with fundraising and special events.

As a Grant Researcher/Writer, assist the fundraising team as they research, write, and execute grants.

As a Youth volunteer, participate in a Red Cross Club at your elementary, middle, or high school or college/university.

There are so many good reasons to become involved with the American Red Cross, and so many different opportunities available once connected to the organization. Change your own life and be a hero in someone else’s by joining the American Red Cross today.

Volunteer opportunities vary slightly from chapter to chapter. To find out more information about the volunteer opportunities at your local chapter, search on redcross.org

From the Archives–March is Red Cross Month

The tradition of ‘March is Red Cross Month’ started in 1943, during World War II.

Prior to designating March as its official fundraising month, the American Red Cross conducted campaigns known as roll calls. That tradition began during World War I.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, the war effort placed additional financial demands on the Red Cross. The resulting fundraising was successful, but, after discussions with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the honorary chairman of the Red Cross, a decision was made to consolidate fundraising and have a special month dedicated to the Red Cross. With an initial goal of $125 million, March was named as Red Cross Month. 

In less than six weeks, the Red Cross reached its goal, and by June 1943, donations totaled nearly $146 million. Roosevelt called it the “…greatest single crusade of mercy in all of history.”


Washington, D.C., 1943 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the proclamation naming March as the official Red Cross month. 

 61-21 (2)

Washington, D.C., February 28, 1961 – President John F. Kennedy, as honorary chairman of the American Red Cross, launches the annual Red Cross fundraising campaign. 

Throughout the war years and after, the Red Cross continued the tradition of using March as Red Cross Month for its annual fundraising effort.

President Obama Proclamation, 2009

2009 presidential proclamation signed by President Barack Obama declaring March as Red Cross Month.

As part of the tradition, the president customarily issues a proclamation each year declaring March as Red Cross Month. 


March is Red Cross Month: From the Archives

Red Cross Month traces its roots to the Christmas Roll Call, an end-of-year fund-raising effort begun during World War I to aid war victims in Europe.



The nurse image is an example of “The American Girl” look popularized by artist Harrison Fisher.

The nurse image is an example of “The American Girl” look popularized by artist Harrison Fisher.

The colorful flags that flew over New York City’s lower Fifth Avenue during Red Cross Week in May 1918 were immortalized in these two paintings below.


Childe Hassam, Red Cross Drive, May 1918 (Celebration Day)

Childe Hassam, Red Cross Drive, May 1918 (Celebration Day)



Caroline Van Hook Bean, Red Cross Week, May 1918, Fifth Avenue, New York

Caroline Van Hook Bean, Red Cross Week, May 1918, Fifth Avenue, New York

As the years progressed, other forms of fundraising replaced the Christmas Roll Call and Red Cross Week, but the idea of a special honor for the Red Cross continued.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed March as Red Cross Month in 1943. While the president proclaims Red Cross Month on the national level, cities and municipalities do the same locally. Here, shown with images from our archives, are some of the ways New York City has celebrated our organization.


Mayor Rudy Giuliani presents New York Red Cross chairman Jonathan O’Herron with a proclamation in 2000.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani presents New York Red Cross chairman Jonathan O’Herron with a proclamation in 2000.

Only New York can celebrate Red Cross Month on Broadway. On March 14, 1962, composer Richard Rodgers hosted a benefit for the New York Chapter at the only preview of his musical “No Strings.” Proceeds from the benefit helped fund construction of a new chapter headquarters building near Lincoln Center. “No Strings (see poster below) ran for 580 performances on Broadway and won three Tony Awards

no strings poster



Mrs. Judson B. Shafer, chairman of the Red Cross Benefit Committee, shows Mr. Rodgers a rendering of the new building.

Mrs. Judson B. Shafer, chairman of the Red Cross Benefit Committee, shows Mr. Rodgers a rendering of the new building.

Through the years, the tradition of hanging flags during Red Cross Week was continued in Red Cross Month. Flags, banners and signage are seen in all New York boroughs on offices, buses, hotels, government buildings and taxis.



Representatives of the Central Queens Red Cross Chapter help raise the Red Cross flag at Kennedy Airport in March 1967.

Representatives of the Central Queens Red Cross Chapter help raise the Red Cross flag at Kennedy Airport in March 1967.


 signs cropa

Even the control tower at Kennedy Airport has gone red in tribute to Red Cross Month.

jfk tower

Frigid Weekend Getaway and Warmer Days (Hopefully) around the Corner

To the despair of many, bitter cold continues to painfully grip much of the United States. The bone-chilling winter weather has dumped massive amounts of snow, plummeted temperatures far below averages and has many people dreaming of warmer days. Long summer days spent on the beach seem too distant to provide any relief. Perhaps a trip to Florida, the Caribbean or southern California would heal the wounds caused by the bleak weather. For those of us not lucky enough to escape to warm weather, we change our desktop background images to palm trees providing shading over white sandy beaches and accept our situation.


Others, however, embrace the cold and travel to even colder areas. Say, for instance, the Buffalo region.  With near constant lake-effect snow and Arctic temperatures blasting western New York, visitors should arrive prepared to face the extreme weather.

Earlier this month, I drove to western New York for a weekend meet up with high school friends. Little did we know when planned the trip that we’d face record-breaking low temperatures throughout our stay. Our President’s Day weekend getaway to Buffalo’s neighboring city Fredonia, New York, bared an actual temperature of negative 28 degrees at its lowest with an accompanying wind chill of almost minus 40 degrees. For this resident of Washington, D.C. and Red Cross employee, these dangerous temperatures provided a firsthand experience of extreme winter weather and the precautions needed to stay as safe and warm as possible.


Below are a few tips my group kept in mind to stay safe. You can also make use of these to make it through the last frigid weeks of winter as we patiently await warmer days:

  1. Wear multiple layers of clothing to stay warm. Gloves and winter hats help retain body heat.
  2. Know the signs of hypothermia –  confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If someone has these symptoms, they should get immediate medical attention.
  3. Know the signs of frost bite – numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.
  4. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Don’t forget to run water, even lightly, to prevent pipes from freezing.
  5. Download the free Red Cross First Aid App and learn how to treat cold weather related emergencies.

Find more extreme winter weather tips on redcross.org.

11 days until spring. 103 days until summer. But for now, stay safe and live vicariously through your Caribbean desktop background!

The Campaign to Change Direction

Sadly, nearly one in every five adults suffers from a diagnosable mental health condition according to SAMHSA.  Traditionally, the Red Cross provides timely emotional support to people affected by disasters or emergencies and members of the military community.  And we’re now proud to join with Give an Hour in The Campaign to Change Direction to share information.

The campaign focuses on helping people to recognize and understand the five typical signs that may indicate that someone is experiencing emotional distress. By becoming familiar with these signs, we can all play a role in identifying people who need extra help.

“People pass through our lives every hour of every day,” says Diane Manwill, LPC LMFT LCPC-S,

Red Cross senior associate for mental health, “the majority of whom we’d never recognize as experiencing emotional pain or needing help. They are our family, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, our spouses, our parents, and our children.  We all want to help, but the first step is knowing what to look for so we can bring care and comfort to those suffering from emotional distress.”

Below are the five signs that may indicate that someone is experiencing emotional distress:

1.  Their Personality Changes

You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves. He or she may behave in ways that don’t seem to fit the person’s values, or the person may just seem different.

2. They seem uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody.

You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable or unable to calm down. People in more extreme situations of this kind may be unable to sleep or may explode in anger at a minor problem.

3. They withdraw or isolate themselves from other people.

Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities he or she used to enjoy. In more severe cases the person may start failing to make it to work or school. Not to be confused with the behavior of someone who is more introverted, this sign is marked by a change in someone’s typical sociability, as when someone pulls away from the social support he or she typically has.

4. They stop taking care of themselves and may engage in risky behavior.

You may notice a change in the person’s level of personal care or an act of poor judgment on his or her part. For instance, someone may let his or her personal hygiene deteriorate, or the person may start abusing alcohol or illicit substances or engaging in other self-destructive behavior that may alienate loved ones.

5. They seem overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by their circumstances.

Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say that the world would be better off without them suggesting suicidal thinking.

If you recognize these signs in someone you care about, reach out to them and offer assistance. It could be a rocky conversation to start and it may take a time.  To learn more about the five signs and the campaign go to www.changedirection.org.