By: AJ Suero
During my recent deployment to Puerto Rico, I had the amazing opportunity to work with our National Public Affairs Team. Our mission was to tell the story of what was happening on the island: how people had been impacted by a series of seemingly endless earthquakes and aftershocks, and what the American Red Cross was doing to help.
Our travels led us to the small town of San Germán near the southwestern coast, where evacuees had set up a makeshift shelter camp. More than 200 people had traveled there to sleep in tents and cots set up in a large parking lot. For most, the recurring tremors had made it impossible for them to sleep comfortably in their own homes.
Our team members on the ground were talking to residents, discussing medical needs, distributing supplies and providing mental health services. While documenting their work, I met a 3-year-old girl named Mijah. As a father of two outgoing children, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet Mijah was. Her mother told me she was growing increasingly concerned about the emotional impact the whole ordeal was having on her young daughter.
During our conversation, something caught my eye. It was a cute, pink tea set that Mijah was playing with on her cot. Many of the other children under her tent were too young to play with her, so I told her that I would love to have a cup of tea with her. She was delighted! As she poured our cups and plopped in imaginary sugar cubes, the expression on her face began to change.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’ve found that to be true. My photo with 3-year Mijah was one of the most memorable moments of my time there. Each one of us has the capacity to make someone’s day, sometimes through the smallest of kind acts. Helping people cope, even just for a moment, can be as simple as participating in a tea party, pinky up, heart wide open.