Friday, July 22, 2016

My Internship with the Red Cross: Part 1

Written by: Morgan Levin, Intern

The idea of helping other people has always been appealing to me. I consider that when you are lucky enough to be born in a safe place, with a good education and a stable situation, it is natural to go out and help those who have been less fortunate. I come from the South-East of France, in a small village near Montpellier, a very dynamic and young city off the Mediterranean coast. I grew up there, and started studying geopolitics this year, which made me realize even more so how much some parts of the world are in great need of help, and seem at first glance totally forsaken. When taking a closer look, I noticed that non-profits are the ones that provide help and assistance to communities around the world without discrimination, regardless of their gender, social status, race or religion. And that is what made me want to join a non-profit for an internship, to discover from the inside how these organizations work and get a better understanding of their impact on our societies.

Why pick the Red Cross to intern with?

The Red Cross combines not only a strong international presence, which is what attracted me to the organization in the first place, but also a presence in every day life to provide the best assistance possible to the local community. I remember that there has always been a Red Cross Team at our student events in France! And that, in my eyes, made a difference that made me want to join them.

Additionally, joining the Red Cross abroad guarantees me the opportunity to discover the American culture and therefore the differences in terms of focus and methods of the American Red Cross compared to the French Red Cross.

During my internship, I hope I will be able to understand and get as much information as I can on the different service areas and the way the Red Cross works here in the United States, and that I will be involved as much as possible in making a difference for the Red Cross.

Friday, July 15, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Sara El Saied

By Emily Goff

Within Sara El Saied, a spirit of profound selflessness glows, receiving its life from the most enriching fuel of all: volunteerism. More specifically, this admirable woman contributes her time, energy and skills to the Red Cross as a faithful volunteer and cherishes the extensive variety of experiences she has collected throughout her time thus far. Sara has been volunteering with the Red Cross since April 2015 and embodies what one ought to do in order to transform our society and world into a better place.

What kindled Sara’s linkage to the Red Cross was a friend’s recommendation, as well as a substantial amount of personal appreciation for the organization’s fundamental pillars. In fact, she informed me, “I was inspired to become involved with the American Red Cross because of the mission. To me, I have felt that there is tremendous value in being a volunteer because of my core belief in serving others. I felt pulled by this organization of volunteers who are committed so strongly to saving lives and ending human suffering around the world.”

In terms of her experiences as a volunteer for the Red Cross, Sara has been involved, and continues to be involved, with numerous crucial efforts.  She stated, “I served as the Volunteer Recruitment lead for the Salute to Service Gala, where I supported Volunteer Engagement with recruitment and orientation for the Gala. Currently, I am one of the Community Volunteer Leaders for Fairfax County and Youth Lead. I manage the recruitment/on-boarding of new high school or college/university clubs and support the logistics of their activities throughout the year. I also work with the Denise Miller, Executive Director of Fairfax County, to plan and execute quarterly meetings for all clubs. I work with her to support local fundraising events such as our In the Bag purse auction event, as well as work with local fire departments on the Home Fire Campaign.” There is seemingly no end to her compassion, dependability, and her generosity to the Red Cross.

The humanitarian spirit of Sara has been shaped by countless experiences, with one in particular that still lingers in her mind with perfect clarity, even months after its occurrence. Sara recalls, “The one profound moment that still stays with me is when I heard the story that Erwin [The Executive Director for Price William and Loudoun Counties] shared with the youth at our kick-off event about a woman who saved her husband's life because she performed CPR. The procedure she applied was the one that was taught by a class she had taken with the Red Cross. The strength of that woman speaking to a 9-1-1 operator while performing CPR – and especially after hearing that the ambulance first arrived at the wrong house – is absolutely remarkable.” Such a story certainly motivates and empowers Sara to help others through the Red Cross.

Sara’s story shares a critical truth we all should tuck into our pockets and invite to guide our actions as citizens, as aspiring volunteers, as current volunteers, as leaders and as humans: lives are fragile and we must always strive to preserve them, however minute our individual efforts towards such a large-scale goal may seem to be. As Sara voiced herself, “A pint of blood can save a life, taking a CPR class can save a life, informing your community about fire safety can save life – the list goes on and on.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Heat Wave Safety

This summer is turning out to be a hot one, as usual, so if you have not yet seen our tips for heat waves or need a refresher, keep reading this post to find out!

A few important things about heat waves:
  • A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally when the thermometer goes up 10 degrees or more above the average, with often excessive humidity
  • Do not underestimate heat waves. Though they can be less dangerous than other weather events, they are the most lethal weather phenomenon in the United States

It is important to stay aware of possible heat wave situations. The best way to stay informed is to listen to the weather forecast. Here are the terms weather forecasters use when referring to heat waves:
  • Excessive heat watch – It is expected that the heat index (the temperature you feel, affected by temperature and humidity levels) will go up to 105°F during the day
  • Heat advisory – For two consecutive days, the heat index has reached at least 105°F but less than 115°F during the day, for a duration of less than three hours per day
  • Excessive heat warning – For two consecutive days, the heat index has reached at least 105°F for more than three hours per day or 115°F at any time

 What you can do to prepare yourself for a heat wave:
  • Check that your emergency disaster kit is up to date, in case of a power outage
  • If you do not have air conditioning, pick a few places where you can go during the warmest parts of the day, such as shopping malls or libraries
  • Get trained in first aid at the Red Cross to be able to assist and respond to extreme situations

 What you can do during a heat wave:
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio to get live updates on the heat wave
  • Favor indoor activities over outdoor activities, which you should postpone if necessary to cooler parts of the day
  • If you can't delay outdoor activities, take small breaks
  • Even if you don't feel thirsty, drink as much as possible, preferably water and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors, especially those who live alone or in places with no air conditioning
  • Don't forget your little buddies! Animals also suffer from the heat and need to be checked on. The best thing is to ensure they are not too exposed to heat and that they always have fresh water within grasp
  •  Hot cars are deadly during heat waves, because the temperature can climb very easily to 120°F. Never leave your children or pets in a car during a heat wave, even with the windows open or for a few minutes

 Here are some heat-related illnesses to watch out for:
  •  Heat cramps – Heat cramps are muscular pain that often occur in the abdomen or the legs. They are a sign that the body is not coping well with the heat. The best thing to do in this case is to get the person to a cooler place, to slowly stretch and massage the muscle and to give them an electrolyte-containing drink, such as a sports drink and water
  •  Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion signs include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion. In case of heat exhaustion, move the person to a cooler place, remove as many clothes as possible and apply wet towels on the body. If the person is conscious, give them small amounts of water and fruits. If the person has a change in consciousness, or refuses water, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number
  •  Heat stroke – Heat stroke is a life threatening condition. A heat stroke often occurs when the signs of heat exhaustion have been ignored. The signs of a heat stroke are often a very high body temperature, a red skin which may be dry or moist, changes in consciousness, a rapid pulse, a shallow breathing, confusion, vomiting, and seizures. If witnessing a heat stroke, remember that it is life threatening and immediately call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Also, try to cool the temperature of the body as much as you can, by immersing the body in cold water, or covering it with bags of ice
Do not forget that animals can also be subject to heat strokes, especially dogs with short noses or snouts such as bulldogs or boxers. If you notice that your pet has difficulties getting up, or an abnormally fast heartbeat, take their temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105°F, cool the animal down until they reach a body temperature of 103°F. The easiest way to do that is by using a water hose. Also, take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

To read more about Heat waves, visit

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hurricane Season is Here! Are You Ready?

Every year as June 1st rolls around, all we hear on the radio and on television is “are you and your home ready for hurricane season?” And that’s just the question to ask! A hurricane is a strong storm that can cause life and property threatening hazards like flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes. Atlantic Hurricane season runs through November 30th, 2016.

Here are some tips and tricks to have a well-prepared hurricane season:

1. Know the Difference: Hurricane Watch vs. Hurricane Warning:

a)     Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are a threat within 48 hours

b)    Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours

2. Listen to the radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS)

3. Check your disaster supplies. Replace or restock as needed. Recommended supplies:

a)     3-day supply of water

b)    3-day supply of non-perishable food

c)     Flashlight

d)    Radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)

e)     Extra batteries

f)     First aid kit

g)     Medications, glasses, contact lenses, etc.

h)    Copies of personal documents

i)      Cellphones and chargers

j)      Cash

k)    Emergency blanket

l)      Extra set of car and home keys

4.  Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture)

5.  Close your windowsdoors and hurricane shutters.

6.  Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. Keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out

7.  Turn off propane tank

8.  Unplug small appliances

9.  Fill your car’s gas tank

10.  Have a hurricane evacuation plan with your family. This will cause less confusion when the time comes to evacuate, if instructed to do so by authorities
11.  Obey evacuation orders. Avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges

With these tips and tricks, you, your family, and your home can be prepared for Hurricane Season.

For more information, visit to learn about hurricane preparedness and how to respond during and after. 

Want to know when any severe weather is headed your way? Download the Red Cross Emergency App, available on the App Store and Google Play!

Friday, July 8, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Daphne Osei 

By Tonia Callender

After earning her college degree, Daphne Osei decided to take some time off from her studies to make a positive difference in her community. Over fifteen months ago, she visited her local Red Cross in Montgomery County, Maryland to see how she could help. The local Youth Team needed some assistance, and Daphne stepped in as an Adult Advisor for the group.

As an adult advisor, Daphne works with about a dozen high school students who plan and implement a variety of service projects in Montgomery County. This past February, the group even sent valentine messages to local veterans. Daphne finds that as a young college graduate she can better relate to the teens and more easily connect with them. Daphne acts as a mentor, giving team members advice and information that they can pass on to their friends. She believes that the key to her youth team’s success has been allowing the teens to have control. “We let them set their own goals and help them to achieve them,” she said.

In addition to advising the Youth Team, Daphne works as a trainer, teaching about fire prevention. She also helps to promote the Red Cross by volunteering at information tables. Daphne enjoys meeting with people in the community and providing them with advice and assistance because, she says, “The people we meet give us wonderful feedback and let us know how much they appreciate our help.”  

For Daphne, volunteering with the Red Cross has been both an educational and very enjoyable experience. Working with others has allowed Daphne to further develop her own teaching and training styles. She has also become very knowledgeable about fire safety and how to survive disasters. Daphne finds that Red Cross volunteers are easy to connect with. “We work together so well, even if we have never met before,” she said.

Daphne loves to promote the Red Cross. She always reaches out to others in her community and encourages them to volunteer with the organization. For her, one of the more rewarding aspects of working with the Red Cross is that you can learn something new and then share the knowledge you have acquired with others. Knowing that she is helping people learn how to survive a disaster or other emergency gives Daphne a great sense of satisfaction and pride. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Steve Peth

To Steve Peth, life is about the humbling moments -- the moments unlocked only by stretching oneself as a devoted volunteer. This remarkable man has let his unwavering sincerity to shine through by aligning himself with the Red Cross. A volunteer with this organization, specifically at its renowned Walter Reed Army Medical Center, since July 5, 2006, this man wholly embraces the vital essence of volunteerism. Decidedly, Steve’s journey is quite inspiring and worth reading more about.

Before Steve began contributing service to the Red Cross, he
 was involved with the military -- particularly as an enlisted man, a warrant officer, a commissioned officer, and a DUSTOFF pilot in Vietnam. Despite needing to grapple with the fierce ache of a bullet wound -- and the consequent operations on it -- he still couldn't be discouraged from this realm of service; the military efforts in Vietnam were too close to Steve’s heart. Ultimately, there were two essential connections he forged with the Red Cross as a result of these experiences during this time of his life: one was sparked when he flew an aircraft graced by the Red Cross insignia for 11 months, with the purpose of traveling in and out of battle, rescuing wounded American civilians and combatants; the other one was born when, as a military retiree, he received some medical care at Walter Reed. At the end of the day, the Red Cross became a symbol of hope and renewal for Steve, and thus the most appropriate organization for him to intertwine with. Involvement arose from a simple, sincere belief: “I felt I could provide the necessary empathy to be a good volunteer.”

Today, Steve volunteers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, holding two working positions: one, a volunteer in the Physical Therapy Outpatient Clinic; and two, Medical Clinic Chairman, Walter Reed Department of Rehabilitation.  In the Physical Therapy Clinic, he assists the therapists by dressing treatment tables; exchanging linen; retrieving, exchanging and cleaning exercise equipment; cleaning mats; transporting patients; and whatever else the staff needs to have done on the days he is there.  As Medical Clinic Chairman, he is responsible for screening, orienting, training, and placing all Red Cross volunteers in the Department of Rehabilitation.  Additionally, he serves as the single point of contact for all Red Cross activities in the Department of Rehabilitation and responds to the Department Head and Clinic Chiefs.  The average number of volunteers serving in the Department is over 70.

On July 15, 2015, Steve underwent the greatly affirming experience of leading Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross, and Koby Langley, American Red Cross Senior Vice President for Service to the Armed Forces, on a tour of the Department of Rehabilitation. Ever the humble man, Steve informed me, “I thought my service to the Department was valued by the staff but I never knew for sure until this particular visit.” According to Steve, the comments made by the clinic Chiefs and the Department Heads about him during this unforgettable tour were “extraordinary, sincere and unsolicited,” and, furthermore, he emphasized to me, “I will never forget it and, knowing how they feel about my service with the Red Cross, I stay motivated to continue what I am doing.” Seeing Steve compelled by such nonmaterial things as words is truly inspirational.

Irrevocably, Steve Peth is a critical factor in the Walter Reed Center’s  -- and, moreover, the Red Cross’ -- success in reviving humanity during its most taxing moments. There's no incentive a person ought to be vying for. As a conclusion to our enlightening interview, Steve shared the bare truth: “Those considering service with the Red Cross should make sure they are doing it for the right reasons.” I encourage everyone to follow in this praiseworthy man’s footsteps.

Friday, June 24, 2016

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Kenneth Hamilton

For seven years, Kenneth Hamilton has “served with dedication and heart,” according to one of our leading volunteers. Another leading volunteer states that, when attending Ken’s briefing, she has been “very impressed, not only with his professionalism, but also his promotion of the Red Cross at Fort Belvoir.

Ken Hamilton, a U.S. Air Force retiree and health care recipient at the Fort Belvoir DeWitt Army Hospital, was inspired to strengthen communication between patients and their families with the hospital caregivers. Upon learning that the hospital had established a Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC), Ken joined the Council in 2009. He also became a Red Cross volunteer, a hospital requirement for all non-government employees serving on the Council. Because of his commitment to the goals of the PFAC and his strong leadership skill, Ken became chair in 2010 and also appointed a co-chair to assist with the group’s important work.

In his role as co-chair of the Hospital’s PFAC, Ken has provided valuable service as a collaborative voice of the patients and their families to the hospital’s professional staff, strengthening their relationships and communications. Under Ken’s leadership, the PFAC has matured and developed into a valued and respected hospital asset. His views, as a voice of the patients and families, are actively sought through representation at the hospital’s operational committee meetings and through invitations by other groups interested in establishing a similar functional group. In heralding the importance of the PFAC in providing patient feedback to the hospital, Ken emphasizes that the doctors and nurses know how to run the hospital. But he notes that, “What is changing is what patients need to know about their care.” The PFAC has had an impact at the hospital in improving communications among the patients and staff.”

In addition to the many hours of volunteer service at the hospital, Ken assisted a number of outreach events. He was particularly helpful to SAF Headquarters staff in its lab testing and video taping of the Service to the Armed Forces Client Self-Service platform. Ken’s outreach activities, both at the hospital’s Patient Orientation briefings and at many community events around the National Capital Region, have provided an extremely beneficial boost to the military community’s knowledge and understanding of American Red Cross programs in Service to the Armed Forces.