• Archived Posts

Blown Away: A Volunteer Story from Nepal

By Glen and Julie Bradley, American Red Cross IT/Telecoms disaster volunteers currently in Nepal

My little yellow tent sailed off the cliff where I had slept the night before.  I couldn’t stake it down because of the rockface, so I left my duffle inside as an anchor against the strong winds whipping up from the steep Himalayan valley. It was all replaceable; clothes, dehydrated food and sleeping gear. All the important stuff was right next to me in my backpack: satphone, radio, toilet paper….

IMG_1593 (640x480)

Ewan Coldicott and I were out in the field as part of a joint American/New Zealand Red Cross IT/Telecoms Emergency Response Unit (ERU). When I heard about my tent I looked down the mountain and kept on about our business. With all the serious disaster surrounding us, the loss of my tent seemed pretty mild. To get to this remote mountainous area of Nepal, we had driven at walking pace up a narrow, dusty road with steep drop-offs, stopping only for a landslide which partially blocked the road and to check on our sensitive equipment strapped to the roof of our car. Our destination was Dhunche, a remote village high in the northern mountains where we were going to support a 35 person Canadian Red Cross medical unit perched on a narrow strip of rare, flat land. This Red Cross unit was the only medical facility in the region and needed contact with the outside world to do their job.

Along the way we passed destroyed villages waving strings of colorful Buddhist prayer flags. Their baked brick homes built on a ridge line had literally crumbled during the earthquake. Survivors had salvaged and gathered what they could and were sleeping outdoors or under raised blue tarps with the Red Cross symbol.

IMG_1602 (640x480)

Finding a clear line of sight to the satellite among the steep mountains was a challenge. We finally locked on and got the row of green lights—success. At this point, the lack of useable living space turned into an advantage for us. As we hammered nails and strung our cables, we realized it was all so compact that we could cover the hospital as well as the Red Cross medical personnel sleeping quarters with one large wifi antenna. As Ewan explained the system to the Red Cross team, a villager ran up the mountain path carrying my tent and duffle over his head. “Auntie, auntie, your tent!”  Now we were all smiling; the Red Cross hospital workers had Internet and communication with the outside world and I had my tent back.

 

IMG_1596 (640x480)

Julie explains the Ruckus wifi antenna to a Canadian Red Cross doctor and nurse.

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.

For more information about our response on the ground in Nepal, please visit www.redcross.org/nepal.

The VSAT satellites installed by Julie and Glen Bradley as part of  a joint American & New Zealand RC IT-Telecommunication Emergency Response Unit (ERU) deployment provides critical connectivity to various Red Cross medical teams from the Canadian Red Cross, the Norwegian Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross.  This capacity ensures a communications life-line to the outside world.  Because of the internet access established the Canadian Red Cross was able to capture this video from this morning’s 7.4 Magnitude Earthquake in Nepal. For more information about our response on the ground in Nepal, please visit www.redcross.org/nepal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T79UDt4_lUo

Schedule a Donation and Get Your (Digital) Swag Starting Today!

One day can change a person’s life in a way they didn’t expect, in a way that left them feeling helpless.

People like Kathy in Derby, Kansas, whose family survived a tornado: “The [Red Cross] gave me hope. They showed me the best in people.”

Or Denise, who overcame a tragic house fire: “When you give even a little from the heart, it means the world to someone who has lost so much.”

Your support allows the Red Cross to be there so people in need can get back on their feet.

SET IT AND FORGET IT

Starting this week, you can help bring more good days to those in need with a financial contribution to Red Cross Giving Day.

For those who like to plan ahead (or are worried you’ll forget come June 2), we set up a Giving Day donation option just for you! Now through June 1, you can simply visit the Giving Day website, enter your information, and your donation will be processed on June 2 along with all other Giving Day donations

SO I SCHEDULED A DONATION. NOW WHAT?

First, thanks so much for your support! But don’t just tell us – tell all your friends too! We have some great digital swag ready on the Giving Day page for you to download and share on your social channels.

Check it out!

ARC_IDonated1_FB_v1

ARC_IDonated4_FB_v1 (1)

ARC_IDonated2_FB_v1

 

WHAT IS GIVING DAY AGAIN?

This spring, people across the country are coming together All In 1 Day for Giving Day, 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 American Red Cross is there to respond with help and hope.

Don’t forget to sign up as a Giving Day Social Ambassador too!

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.

Choutara 015

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.

Choutara 027

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.

Choutara 028

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.

Choutara 065

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.

RO HTI 2015 04 06 0093_low-res

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.

11201151_805712589503_7742908087326412700_o (1)

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.

GIS_response_infographic-02_reduced

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