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. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our Little Volunteer

As we embarked on a brand new fiscal year in July, we also welcomed a new member to our Red Cross family - Joseph James DeLizzio. 

Joseph is the first born son of our Chief Operating Officer, Geoff DeLizzio, and his wife Julia. He was born at 8:22 am on Wednesday, July 2. This littlest volunteer weighed in at 6 lbs, 15 oz, - happy, healthy, and loud. Congratulations to Geoff and Julia - we love Joseph's Red Cross swag!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hitting a Home Run with the Red Cross

An Afternoon Blood Drive with the Nationals

By Riley Hope, Communication Intern

Before the 4th of July fireworks and the Saturday win against the Chicago Cubs, three Washington Nationals players came to support donors and friends at a local blood drive last week. Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, pitchers for the team, and Jose Lobaton, a catcher, supported the Red Cross by attending a blood drive at the Alexandria office of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region on July 3rd. 

I was able to meet the players last Thursday for about two hours as they made a "short stop" at the office when the blood drive started. Gio, Rafael, and Jose were welcomed by the staff at the Alexandria building as well as by Linda Voss, the CEO for the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross. Their energy for the game translated well with the donors and volunteers as they talked about the Nationals, baseball, and life in the District. The players proved to be real hits, and soon would-be donors were chatting with the teammates and snapping a few photos with them.

The players' appearances came as quite a surprise for the donors, many who came expecting a normal donation day. One pair of donors just so happened to walk in wearing National’s jerseys but didn't recognize the players until they overheard a conversation about baseball.  Another donor was quite excited when she saw the players because she came prepared - she always carries a baseball in her bag since you never know who you're going to meet in DC! 

The blood drive proved to be a "home run" with the community, as Alexandria Mayor William Euille stopped by the office to support his constituents, whether they were donating blood or helping to collect it. He walked around with the players to  meet donors, thanking them for their time and for their donations, snapping a few photos along the way.

For this intern, the blood drive really hit home because it showed how the entire community, from local celebrities and politicians to volunteers and donors, could coalesce around a cause and work together to change lives.  And while meeting players during donations can be hit or miss, taking the time to donate or volunteer with your local Red Cross, or any other charity, can prove to be a reward in itself. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

June in a Nutshell

Keeping an Eye on the Sky During Hurricane Season

By Squiggy the Squirrel

Are you ready for Hanna, Kyle, Omar, and Sally?

No, these aren't names of future dinner guests. They're the names of potential 2014 hurricanes - powerful and dangerous storms that may impact you and your community in the next few months.

June 1st marked the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, so I thought this was the perfect time to talk about hurricane preparedness. I added this topic to my summer reading list and here's what I want to share. 

During the summer and fall months, storms can form in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific oceans. Once winds reach 74 miles per hour, a storm is officially classified as a hurricane. Hurricanes are then further categorized by their intensity, ranging from Category 1 to the most intense, Category 5. The latter have winds of 156 miles per hour or greater! 

Make sure to monitor the news and internet this summer if you hear a hurricane's headed your way. These storms move fast, so you'll want to know in advance what steps you'll need to take. There are two key threats that you should be aware of.

If there's a hurricane watch:
  • This means conditions are a threat within 48 hours
  • It's a good time to review your hurricane safety checklist with your family
  • Get ready to act if a warning is issued

If there's a hurricane warning:
  • This means conditions are expected within 36 hours
  • Complete your storm preparedness
  • Leave the area if directed to do so by authorities

The Red Cross has many tips and important information on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane. But, a great way to prepare now is to download the Red Cross Hurricane App. It has many helpful features, including:
  • "I'm safe" messaging to broadcast reassurance to family and friends via social media that you're safe
  • Location-based NOAA weather alerts
  • Locations of open Red Cross shelters
  • Checklists to create a family emergency plan
  • Instant access to critical action steps without mobile connectivity
  • A toolkit with flashlight, strobe light, and audible alarm
  • Interactive quizzes

Learn more about the app and download it by texting "GETCANE" to 90999 or searching for "Red Cross Hurricane" in the Apple Store or Google Play

The Red Cross has offered life saving services to many people during and after hurricanes. See how Red Cross provided assistance after Hurricane Sandy.

Share this post with family and friends so they're prepared, too!


Friday, June 13, 2014


My Fear-Day the 13th

By Squiggy the Squirrel

Just the other day, I looked at the calendar and saw that it was going to be Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th is one of the scariest days of the year for me, as I'm down right afraid of bad luck. Some would even say that I'm a bit nutty, but hey, a cautious squirrel is better than an unlucky one! Anyway, seeing that the 13th was coming up really fast, it got me thinking - what are some simple things I could do to make sure that even if a a black cat walked in front of me, or I spilled some salt, I'd be ready for anything!

First - I thought it would be a good idea to make sure my First Aid kit was updated with all of the essentials. I went to the Red Cross website and double checked everything in my kit and found that almost everything was in tip top shape! 

Next I made sure to download the First Aid app from the Red Cross. There are a lot of apps that put preparedness right in your palm!

Which brings us to today, the day I've been dreading! Turns out it's a good thing I was prepared before the 13th! 

Here's what happened... 
My morning started out like any other morning, but, unfortunately, as I was rolling out of my bed, I was unpleasantly surprised by the hard ground. "Ouch," I thought to myself, "what an unlucky start to my day! I think I may have sprained my tail bone!" I reached over to my phone and pulled up the First Aid app and was able to figure out how to support myself until the ambulance showed up with the squirrel rescue squad. 

After I was treated and left the ambulance with my new squirrel cast, I figured the day could only get better! On my way back to my tree house I mistakenly crossed under a ladder and instantly got stung by something! Oops! I wasn't entirely sure what it was but luckily enough, my handy-dandy First Aid app came to the rescue again! From the app I learned to:

  • remove the stinger
  • wash the wound
  • and apply an ice pack
In no time I was back to feeling in tip-top shape... at least as best I can with a broken tail! 

Later, as I was on my way back from collecting acorns, a black cat crossed my way. And if that wasn't enough bad luck, the cat also happened to be hungry! I ran as fast as I could to escape the famished kitty and managed to make it back home safely.

By the time I got home I was sweating profusely. I haven't shed my winter coat quite yet so I was really overheated! I checked myself for signs of a heat stroke by following the simple steps on the First Aid app and hydrated myself while I searched my phone for the nearest squirrel salon for a fur trim!

What a day! Although I had a series of unfortunate events, the First Aid app really came to the rescue! While this morning wasn't a walk in the park, I can't imagine what my luck would've been like if it weren't for the Red Cross app and my First Aid kit. Don't let yourself take on Friday the 13th, or any other day, without them!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May in a Nutshell

Splish, Splash - Swim Safely this Summer!

By Squiggy the Squirrel

The other morning when I was sipping my morning coffee and eating Nutella pancakes, I heard the words "Red Cross" on the TV and my ears perked up. The TODAY show had on this great segment about swimming and water safety.

After watching, I knew this would be a great topic to share with readers this month as we prepare for the summer ahead. Did you know that 80% of American plan to include some sort of water activity in their summer plans, including going to the beach, lake, or pool? That means you probably have swimming plans coming up!

In a recent national survey the Red Cross conducted, 80% of Americans said they could swim, but when asked further questions about their skills, the Red Cross got some surprising results.

  • Only 56% of those who said they can swim, said they could perform all 5 basic water safety skills
  • 6 in 10 Americans have never taken a professional swimming course

Let's talk about these statistics in more detail. The 5 basic water safety skills, also called "water competency," include being able to:

  1. Step or jump into water over your head
  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute
  3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit
  4. Swim 25 yards (75 feet)
  5. Exit from the water (this is in a pool, you should be able to exit without using the ladder.)
Can you perform these 5 basic skills? Don't feel bad if you can't, because now is the time to learn by taking a professional swimming class. If you're in the DC area, reach out to your local aquatic or fitness center to see if there are upcoming classes, especially ones that use Red Cross curriculum. 

Another great water safety tool is the new Red Cross Swim App for your smart phone. The app is a great aid to help children learn to swim. It rewards and shares your kids' achievements as they earn badges for completing skills, reinforces tips with games and videos, and teaches about water safety in a vareity of places, such as pools, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Download it directly today from the iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon Marketplace app stores.

I'm excited to hear about all your summer swimming plans! But remember, safety comes first. The Red Cross has many more water safety tips you can read about on our website. Share these with your family and friends so that your summer is both fun and safe!