“Helping people in need is so important to the work we do at the Red Cross,” said Mikaela Khvang, a volunteer who just returned from a Red Cross deployment assisting Afghan evacuees at the Fort Bliss Doña Ana Range Complex in New Mexico.
Mikaela, a pre-med student from Los Angeles, is one of nearly 800 Red Crossers who have supported evacuation efforts for tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan at U.S. military bases in the United States and around the globe.
Over the past month, the Red Cross has provided health and mental health services to evacuees during their temporary stay at military installations. A key part of the operation is to ensure people have necessities such as hygiene items, clothing, cribs, diapers and more. The Red Cross is also helping to replace prescription medications, eyeglasses, canes, wheelchairs and other basic items that may have been left behind in the rush to evacuate.
Thus far, Red Crossers have provided some 1.9 million relief items — including comfort kits with personal hygiene items, towels, blankets, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, thermometers, baby bottles, portable cribs and stuffed animals.
For Mikaela, the most rewarding aspect of the deployment has been meeting families and playing with the children she’s met. When she learned of an Afghan family struggling to carry their six-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy, she knew that she had to help.
“I’ve worked with special needs children previously and hope to one day as a doctor. This little girl’s story touched my heart,” she said. This family has already been through so much, I knew that the Red Cross could help them.”
And that’s just what Mikaela did. She made securing a wheelchair her focus. Working with partner agencies and organizations, she tracked down a delivery of medical supplies and made sure that a wheelchair was set aside for the little girl. “We needed to deliver this quickly and make it a priority,” she said.
When Mikaela delivered the wheelchair to the father and daughter, the child was at first apprehensive. Realizing that she was scared, Mikaela decided to sit in the chair herself and play a game together. “Once we started playing and rolling the chair back and forth, it seemed less scary to her,” she said. The two spent time playing and laughing, eventually holding hands in the chair together.
Mikaela says that helping those who are often overlooked is so important. “If it’s one person I can help, I’m going to help them.” That’s what we do at the Red Cross — provide dignity to people who have faced such hardship. I can’t think of a better way to help someone in need than to provide a wheelchair. I’m glad we could be there,” she said.
Want to learn more about our repatriation efforts? Read here about how the Red Cross and Red Crescent are helping the people of Afghanistan.