1 minute readDisaster, Volunteers

Haiti Relief: A Gathering of Symbols

The post below was written by American Red Cross volunteer Winnie Romeril. For more information about the symbols associated with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, please visit the IFRC website.

Earthquake in Haiti 2010Yesterday I met Uri Shacham, an Israeli paramedic from the Magen David Adom (MDA, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross) working in the Red Cross-administered University Hospital in Port au Prince. He was sporting a smart white baseball cap with a red crystal surrounding the red Shield of David.

“Hi I’m a volunteer from the American Red Cross,” I introduced myself. “Wanna swap hats?” I knew I’d be the envy of my Red Cross colleagues to score a hat like this, on the first major disaster relief operation where the new symbol is being used.

“Sure, what do you have?” Uri asked. I offered him my cap from the Tsunami operation. “Really, you sure?” We traded our treasures in mutual delight. As we are both paramedics, we quickly and excitedly began bantering about our work and became fast friends.

Today, joined by Judy Nicholson, a volunteer from the American Red Cross, I was back at the hospital. We came across another MDA paramedic and a psychosocial volunteer, both with a crystal on their red vest alongside a badge with the cross and crescent, representing our Movement’s response. I commented on the gathering of symbols.

“Oh, you should have been here earlier. People from the Red Cross and Red Crescent around the world keep approaching us.” said Keli Peretz, a paramedic and PSP.

They don’t notice each other’s symbols or national affiliation at first. They just start talking, like Red Cross workers do. Even when meeting colleagues from unlikely countries, where the governments do not get along, “They want to take our pictures together!” said the paramedic in amazement.

Earthquake in Haiti 2010

“We embraced, shared experiences, laughed and talked, oh, you cannot imagine,” said the relief worker with tears in her eyes. “It’s only because of the politicians. We don’t feel this way. They are our brothers and sisters. It is only here in the Red Cross that we can be together like that; that things are as they should be.”

They joked about putting some of the pictures they took on Facebook, but realized sadly that it could cause them trouble at home.

But here in this place, everyone works together regardless of anything.