Friday, August 29, 2014

August in a Nutshell

Ready, Writing, and Preparedness!

By Squiggy the Squirrel

It's officially that time of year - back to school - and everyone's favorite squirrel (yes, that's me!) prepared a list of items I need to buy for the new year:
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Notebooks
  • Crayons
  • Ruler
  • Glue
  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlight

You may be wondering why I added those two last items on my shopping list. Do they seem out of place to you? Wouldn't the school handle those items? The answer is most likely yes. But what about after school? Many kids come home after school and are alone for a few hours before their parents or guardians get home from work. If your child is too young, they shouldn't be left alone. Consider after-school child care, after-school programs or sports, or a babysitter. But if your child is old enough, you may believe they're responsible and able to be left alone after school until you come home from work. If this is the case, here is a list of things you should do in your home to make sure your child is prepared and safe. 

What parents/guardians should do in their homes:

Create an emergency contact list including 9-1-1, work and cell phone numbers of parents/guardians, and numbers for neighbors and extended family members. Put the list in a place that's easy to spot, like the refrigerator or near your landline phone. 

  • Have a stocked first aid kit and flashlight in an accessible place in the home. Make sure your child knows where they are, is familiar with the items in the kit, and knows how to use the flashlight.
  • Come up with an emergency plan with your child so they know what to do in case of a fire, injury, or other emergencies. Practice the plan.
  • Lock up or hide out of reach any dangerous items like guns, knives, power tools, razor blades, scissors, and other objects that could be harmful.
  • Make sure detergents, polishes, pesticides, car fluids, lighter fluids, and oils (potential poisons) are out of reach, hidden, or stored in locked cabinets.
  • Limit any cooking a young child can do. Make sure at least one working smoke alarm is installed on ea ch level of your home.
In addition, here are some other back to school safety tips:
  • Make sure your child knows his/her home phone number and address, parents/guardians' work phone numbers, and how to dial 9-1-1.
  • Remind your child not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don't know.
  • Research your school's emergency plan and how you would be notified if an emergency happened at the school. Ask your child's teacher questions if you have any.
  • Remind your child that the best thing they can do if an emergency happens at school is to stay calm and listen to their teacher.
  • Make a copy of the emergency contact list discussed earlier and tape it to the inside of one of your child's notebooks.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Good luck with the new school year! Don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

So You Started the School Year. Now What?

By Sarah Oldham, Volunteer Contributor

You've prepped for that first day back at school - from the outfit you wore to the friends you sat with at lunch. But you're school year's just starting and there's a lot of work ahead of you. Now what? 

Goal Setting

I've set myself several goals for this school year to make far-reaching and intelligent decisions. concentrate on studying, and have a healthy social life. As I look forward to the school's seasoned events, like Homecoming and the football games, my objective is to meet new people and stay safe. Additionally, it's not a bad idea to get to know my teachers and not hold back on getting extra help when needed. What personal goals will you set?


Being a 16-year-old teenager, driving has become a large priority. It's very common to come across teen drivers that aren't cautious. Since I'll begin to drive on my own starting in October, I'm making it a huge priority to drive with awareness and watch out for other teen drivers this school year. Whether it's driving safety or something else, it's important to set your priorities for the year ahead. 

Extracurricular Activities & Future Plans

As an upcoming junior, this year I'll be facing several challenges, such as test preparation and college level classes. To equip myself for this school year, in addition to volunteering with the Red Cross I've also become a member of the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), started SAT practice, and volunteer tutoring. It's vital to me that I experiment with various types of activities, like leadership clubs and Best Buddies. These activities are not only helpful for college admittance, but can also help guide you in deciding what you want to do in the future. Explore all the opportunities that are out there. You never know where they'll lead you!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School Basics

How to Be Prepared for the First Bell

By Sofia Caballero, Volunteer Contributor

The Red Cross stresses preparedness not just for emergencies, but also in everyday life. Are you ready for your return to school? High schoolers, here are some tips for your transition into the new semester.

Before Your First Day

Make sure you know your schedule well before you walk in. When you know where you're going, it'll be easier to focus on the information you're getting from your teachers. Find a map of your school and plan out the routes from class-to-class ahead of time. If you're freshman, go to your orientation. It'll give you an edge if you know where all your classes are and it's a good idea to meet your teachers. 

When packing for your first day back, make a list of everything you need. If you know what supplies your teachers want, make sure you've bought them. Even if you don't know what you need, take some pens and a folder or binder. You'll get forms and syllabi, and it's wise to start organizing everything on day one. 

Unless you want a poor grade and a dirty look from your teacher, do not forget your summer assignments! It seems like a lot to remember, but all of this will help you start off your year on a good note.

The First Day of the Year

Now that you're prepared, actually going back will be easy. A good impression is not difficult to make, but can be important. Having a good relationship with your teachers may help you later on. To ensure you come across as a good student, get to class on time, introduce yourself, and turn in your homework. Taking simple steps like these can make a big difference by the end of the year. 

If there are student you don't yet know, talk to them. It's always better to have friends in your classes. The first day is a good way to ease back into routine. Don't stress about it and it will be easy.

After the First Day

You've only just started! Now, you've got a long year ahead of you. Two words of advice: DON'T PANIC. Maintain a routine schedule for getting homework done, playing sports, and spending free time. If this is difficult for you, take it in steps. Once you master getting homework done on time, add a sport or club. Check what extracurricular programs your school offers. Try to find clubs that can benefit you, but still pertain to your interests. 

Don't forget to make time for volunteer work (which can always be found at the Red Cross). Take advantage of all the programs you have access to. 

Finally, and most importantly, enjoy yourself! Don't worry so much about school that it overwhelms you. Take each day like you did the first and you'll be fine. After all, it's all about being prepared.

Friday, August 1, 2014

5 Things You Didn't Know About the Red Cross in World War I

By Michelle Fordice, Volunteer Contributor

The approach of the 100th anniversary of World War I causes many of us to reflect on the impact of that conflict. The war was a formative one for the Red Cross. Though the organization celebrated its 50th birthday just a few weeks after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, there was no assurance that the humanitarian zeal of its leaders and volunteers would be enough to alleviate the suffering of the war that was about to rage through Europe and the world. 

In an August 15, 1914 circular to the national Red Cross societies, Gustave Ador, president of the organization, remarked, “From today, the Red Cross is called to an intense labour of a kind never seen before.”  Yet, despite setbacks, challenges and even failures, the Red Cross rose to the occasion. 

Here are 5 things you might not have known about the Red Cross in World War I.

The Red Cross Supported a Massive Information Gathering Campaign for Displaced Civilians and Prisoners of War 

When President Ador instituted an international agency to respond to inquiries about prisoners of war, as dictated by the 1907 Hague Convention, he staffed it with nine members of the International Committee, two boy scouts and a student. Their first list of prisoners of war arrived with 29 names. Soon they realized that the changed nature of warfare meant that displaced civilians would also need to be found, and added that challenge to their mission.

Word of their efforts soon got out and within two months they were receiving 3,000 inquires a day from families. By the end of the war, for French prisoners of war alone, they would fill 228 volumes, each 400 pages, with information about individual soldiers and their whereabouts. By 1918, 120,000 people had arrived in person looking for assistance.

In spite of these staggering numbers, the most inspiring part of this story is the people who were involved. Many of the first volunteers for the agency were travelers who had been stranded in Geneva by the fighting.  These bankers, teachers and homemakers took up the call to help. Eventually 1,200 volunteers would work in shifts around the clock to answer the calls of families looking for their loved ones.  

From Comic Books to X-Ray Machines, the Red Cross Provided a Vast Amount of Services and Material during the War

The Red Cross provided more than you might think during the war. The Danish Red Cross quickly amassed 20,000 books for prisoners of war, soliciting comic books in particular so that the soldiers would not “forget how to laugh.”

The American Red Cross brought enough bandage material to Italy to “provide a five-and-three-quarter girdle of gauze around the world,” and some British medical units in the field came with their own mobile x-ray machines.

In August of 1916 one of these x-ray teams reported that they had examined, “not only 49 heads, 58 thorax, 8 abdomen, 27 pelvises, etc. but 2 horses and a mule.” Canteen units supplied troops with necessities and comfort items.

In a single month in 1918, the Red Cross in Vichy distributed free items that included, “78,278 packages of tobacco, 7,480 tubes of toothpaste, 7,650 toothbrushes, 3,650 combs, 3,460 so-called comfort bags (small cloth bags filled with treats and necessities), 2,850 packages of chewing gum, 1,650 cakes of soap, 1,245 bars of chocolate, and 1,200 sticks of shaving soap.

Other gifts for the troops included pencils, matches, shaving brushes, cards, washcloths, sweaters, razor blades, checkers and other games, thread, pipe cleaners, drinking cups, gloves, canes, socks, pajamas and underwear.”

During the battle at St. Mihiel, Red Cross volunteers served over 160,000 gallons of hot cocoa. Across the war zone Red Cross volunteers hosted holiday celebrations, wrote letters for injured soldiers, delivered mail, arranged funerals and recorded the gravesites, tended the sick and wounded, and more.

Activities Surrounding World War I Caused the Red Cross in the United States to Blossom

When the war began, the American Red Cross only had 107 chapters. American Red Cross members did respond to the war from its outset, sending mercy ships and fundraising, but they were outpaced by their European counterparts. Yet, when Congress voted for war in April of 1917, Americans embraced the cause and turned out in droves to support the Red Cross. By the end of the war, the American Red Cross had 3,864 chapters and nearly a quarter of the country’s population—28 million people— were members. 

Americans supported a variety of Red Cross operations as old services expanded and new ones were added, such as the motor corps and canteen services. Even President Wilson grazed sheep on the White House lawn and auctioned off the wool for the cause.

Red Cross Supporters Got Creative with Their Fundraising

Like fundraisers today, Red Cross volunteers were faced with the challenge of needing to raise huge sums money to meet their goals. They often approached this problem in creative ways. In Britain, Lady Northcliffe called on the women of the British Empire to donate their pearls. She collected 3,597 pearls and had forty-one necklaces made. They sold at auction for £84,000. 

Others followed her example of organizing auctions. By the end of the war, Christie’s auction house hosted seven sales that raised £322,000. American Red Cross President, Henry Davison convinced Wall Street bankers to turn out their pockets and Henry Ford to donate 5,000 Model Ts. Harry Gardner, the ‘human fly,’ scaled a New York skyscraper in a white suite with a large red cross painted on his back to draw attention and draw in funds. 

Even the average volunteer got in the game: An Ohio woman donated a hen and a dozen eggs that was auctioned for $2,002.

The Red Cross Sponsored a Project to Create Masks for Disfigured Soldiers

After receiving support from the Red Cross, sculptor Anna Ladd began creating realistic portrait masks for soldiers with faces marred from shrapnel, burns and other wounds. Ladd custom-made pieces for each soldier, recreating noses, ears, and jaws. Each mask consisted of a thin copper form covered with hard enamel painted to match the wearer’s skin tone. Even mustaches were recreated with real hair fastened to the mask.  These masks allowed the men to feel more comfortable in public. 

Ladd wrote, “People get used to seeing men with arms and legs missing, but they never get used to an abnormal face. And so these men are the object of aversion to almost everyone. A man who is repulsive to look at cannot get a job which will bring him in contact with the general public, and so it is so much harder for these men, who have already given so much, to earn their living.”  

With their self-esteem bolstered, these men went home ready to start over. They sent letters back to Ladd reporting of how they found new jobs and got married. One man, who had not wanted his mother to see his face, finally returned home after two years. By 1918, Ladd’s studio had produced 185 masks. It seems a small drop in the bucket against the estimated 20,000 facial casualties of the war, but for those men it was an invaluable service. 

Want to learn more? This article referenced the following materials:

Alexander, C. (2007). Faces of War: Amid the horrors of World War I, a corps of artists brought hope to soldiers disfigured in the trenches. Smithsonian Magazine

Gavin, Lettie. (1997). American Women in World War I. Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

Martin, I. (2002). 'When Needs Must': The Acceptance of Volunteer Aids in British and Australian Military Hospitals in World War I. Health and History, 4(1), 88-98

Morehead, Caroline. (1998). Dunant’s Dream: War, Switzerland, and the History of the Red Cross. New York, New York: Carroll & Graff Publishers, Inc.

Woolley, A. (1986). A Hoosier Nurse in France: The World War I Diary of Maude Frances Essig. Indiana Magazine of History, 82(1), 37-68.

Zeinert, Karen. (2001). Those Extraordinary Women of World War I. Brookfield, Connecticut: The Millbrook Press, Inc. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July in a Nutshell

Is It Hot In Here Or Is It Just Me?

By Squiggy the Squirrel

Phew, just when I thought June was bad, July got even worse. My tree house A/C bill has been out of the leaves!

When we venture outside it's important to check the weather and know the temperature especially when heat waves are in effect. Do you know the differences between watches, warnings, and advisories?

  • Excessive Heat Advisory - Heat Index values are forecasting to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs = 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit). 
  • Excessive Heat Warning - Heat Index values are forecasting to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs = 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Excessive Heat Watch - Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.

A lot of people get confused on the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke and it's important to know about these two conditions. 

Heat exhaustion involves the loss of body fluids through heavy sweating during strenuous exercise in high heat and humidity (like when my buddies and I kick the acorn around). 

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition in which a person’s temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself (like when my buddies and I kick the acorn around and we go into double overtime).

If you think you’re having a heat stroke or heat exhaustion make sure to call 911 ASAP, you can never be too safe.

Make sure to keep your body hydrated during these high heats. You should be drinking at least seven glasses a day to keep your body in tip-top shape!

For heat safety and many other lifesaving information, make sure to download the Red Cross First Aid app on your smartphone! Share with family and friends so that they’re prepared and cool, just like you!


Monday, July 14, 2014

International Independence Days

By Sarah Oldham, Volunteer Contributor

America's Independence Day is celebrated across the country on July 4th and our very own chapter here in the region is involved in supporting DC's spectacular celebration. On the heels of our country's celebration is another country's special day to honor and recognize independence - La Fete Nationale Francaise.

This day is celebrated on July 14th and is also known as Bastille Day. It marks a crucial point in history for the nation of France. The Bastille was a prison used primarily to house political prisoners in the 17th and 18th centuries and symbolized King Louis XVI's absolute power. In an act of uprising, the Bastille was attacked and captured by a large crowd of citizens on that fateful July 14th day in 1789, ushering in a new feeling of freedom and forever changing France's government from a monarchy to a republic. 

Years later, the French Red Cross would be founded and become involved in supporting the country during times of conflict. It was involved in the liberation of Paris in August of 1944 when emergency squads aided the injured that were spotted in the streets and on the rooftops of buildings. It was also during this time that the nurses of the French Red Cross began to play a prime role during the war. 

Today, the French Red Cross partners with other national societies, like the American Red Cross, to respond to international disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami that struck India in 2004. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rules of War

International Humanitarian Law and Why It Matters

By Tezeta Tesfay, Volunteer Raid Cross Facilitator

As I transition into my senior year of college I have begun placing a greater emphasis on how I envision my future career while becoming more aware of the opportunities that exist to help guide me towards the right direction. After years of exploring my potential niche, I finally discovered that my passion lies in humanitarian work and international affairs. It's for this reason that I found myself eager to express my interest in volunteering with the American Red Cross for their 2014 Raid Cross event.

I first learned about Raid Cross from an email sent through the Howard University Career Center. The message briefly mentioned how the American Red Cross was looking for volunteers to participate during an event at Cardozo High School called Raid Cross 2014, a program designed to educate high school students about International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Instantly, I believed that I could benefit educationally and personally due to my belief in how essential it is to educate young people about current international events and the efforts of organizations like the Red Cross, who play a strong role in helping to remedy some of the devastating effects of war on individuals globally.

Recently, I became informed that many years ago, members of my own family had been held as prisoners of war.  My father had been a prisoner of war when the country of Eritrea went into war with Ethiopia for ownership over a particular region of land. Tensions were high in Ethiopia and as a result many young men, including my father, felt it necessary to take it upon themselves to establish new forms of leadership. Their act of defiance against their own government eventually led to my father’s capture. He was eventually released after my mother pled with military officials to whom she had family ties. When I think over the events that affected my own parents, I cannot help but to feel personally connected to all of the individuals who face similar experiences; and thus, I am compelled to contribute in any way that I can towards bringing awareness of International Humanitarian Law.

Prior to my involvement with Raid Cross, my knowledge of IHL had been very limited. After participating in the event I am proud to say that I am now able to confidently reiterate the basics of IHL. Like most people, my ability to learn such extensive material is actually limited by the traditional class room setting. Raid Cross however, is so dynamic in that it is designed to provide students an educational experience through interactive activities that are crafted with the purpose of truly impacting one's learning ability. During this event I took on the role of a prison guard who “raids” the students and then “interrogates” them as prisoners of war. I found that presenting the information in this manner allowed the students to have fun while critically analyzing how actual prisoners of war may feel in such a predicament. To my surprise, the students were able to use their imaginations in order to actually embody the role of prisoners of war. The circumstances they were able to create for themselves while role playing were not only rewarding but a heart warming personal experience as well.

While the day consisted of fun-filled challenging activities, my favorite portion of Raid Cross was in fact the debriefing moment in which the students are given an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and opinions regarding the previous post. It was at this moment I truly realized how intelligent and bright the students were. Even when their comments may have seemed to go against popular opinion, the students were still able to defiantly express their own positions confidently while maintaining an open mind; and because they were able to do this, I myself became more aware of the differences in perspectives dealing with some of the controversies regarding the policies of IHL.

Raid Cross 2014 was without question the best volunteer activity I have ever participated in. The facilitators were great, I was able to meet other students from Howard University, I met other Red Cross volunteers who gave me great career advice, the students were engaging and fun to be around, and the program overall opened me up to new ideas and information. I am really glad I played a role in this event, and I would encourage anyone else who may have an opportunity to participate to do so.