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Did you know every year on May 8th we celebrate World Red Cross Day? I am sure many of you, like me before I was a volunteer with the American Red Cross, have never heard of World Red Cross Day. Below are some facts to give you a better understanding of what World Red Cross Day is, how it came about and why it is so important.

What is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day?

It is an annual celebration of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The seven principals are HUMANITY, IMPARTIALITY, NEUTRALITY, INDEPENDENCE, VOLUNTARY SERVICE, UNITY, and UNIVERSALITY. Each year about 97 million members and volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are honored on this day making it the largest humanitarian network of relief worldwide serving over 170 countries.

Why is it celebrated on May 8th?

May 8th is the birthday Henri Dunant who founded the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 1863 in the Geneva, Switzerland.

Henri Dunant

Jean Henri Dunant (May 8, 1828 –October  30, 1910), also known as Henry Dunant, was a Swiss businessman and social activist. In 1901 he received the first Nobel Peace Prize, along with Frederic Passay, for his role in founding the International Red Cross Movement and initiating the Geneva Convention. In 1903 Dunant was given an honorary doctorate by the medical faculty of the University of Heidelberg.

He died on October 30th 1910, and his final words were “Where has humanity gone”? The former nursing home in Heiden, Switzerland where Durant died is now the Henry Dunant Museum. In Geneva, there are numerous streets, squares, and schools named after him. The Henry Dunant Medal is awarded every two years by the standing commission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It is its highest decoration.

How did Henri come up with the idea to start the International Red Cross?

During a business trip in 1859, he witnessed the aftermath of a battle in Solferino, Italy. He recorded his memories and experiences in the book A Memory of Solferino .  In 1862, 1,600 copies of the book were published and printed at Dunant’s own expense.  Dunant’s experiences at Solferino inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863. In his book, he described the battle, its costs, and the chaotic circumstances afterwards.  After the war, he visited with wounded soldiers and was shocked by the lack of facilities, personnel, and medical aid available to help them. He abandoned the original intent of his trip and spent his time helping with the treatment and care for the wounded soldiers.

 What is International Red Cross and Red Crescent  Movement ?

It is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide. The International Red Cross Movement was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The movement consists of several distinct organizations that are legally independent from each other, but are united within the movement through common basic principles, objectives, symbols, statutes and governing organizations.Red cross day

 When was the first World Red Cross Day celebrated?

It was first celebrated as the Red Cross Day on May 8th 1948. Later, it was officially named as the “World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day” in 1984.

When was the International Committee of the Red Cross Founded?

Their first meeting was held on February 17, 1863 which is considered the founding date.

What is the theme for 2014?

World Red Cross Day theme of 2014 was “Together for Humanity”

How can you celebrate World Red Cross Day

You can celebrate World Red Cross Day and World Red Crescent Day in a variety of ways:

  • Learn more about the Red Cross
  • Support Red Cross programs and efforts
  • Send a donation to the Red Cross
  • Donate blood today
  • Become a Red Cross volunteer
  • Thank Red Cross volunteers for their service

— Posted by Jennifer Ingram, SEPA Red Cross Communications Volunteer

Volunteering with the American Red Cross these last three years has been a great experience for me. When I first became a volunteer, I was unemployed and looking for something to keep me busy until I was able to find a job. Now that I have a job, I still continue to volunteer on a weekly basis. Just about every Tuesday afternoon you can find me in the Communication Pod (CommPod as its come to be known) on the 5th floor. I have a background in English with some journalism experience, and the communications department has been a perfect fit for me. I have written several posted blogs, press releases, captions for pictures, research on various topics and many other things. I enjoy being able to use my experience in a useful and rewarding way.  As I am making my way to the CommPod, if I am not spotted first, I usually stop and talk to all the wonderful people I have gotten to know.

rco_blog_img_jenniferOver the years, my volunteering has expanded beyond the CommPod. I sometimes call myself the 5th floor volunteer because, at times, my help has been needed all over the floor. For about a month after Hurricane Sandy, I came in several days a week to help with anything that needed to be done. I not only got to see first hand all the different services that the Red Cross provides when a disaster occurs, but I actually contributed to the success of these services. I feel proud of my volunteer efforts during that difficult time. I can also be found helping out on the 4th floor in the Volunteer Department with various things.

When I am here volunteering, it gives me such a warm feeling inside knowing that I am helping a great organization and that my work is well appreciated. Every Tuesday, I look forward to coming, and when I am not here, I can’t wait to come back. When I am gone for a few weeks and return, I am often told how much I was missed, which also makes me feel good. The most important reason why I continue to volunteer is seeing the difference that volunteering makes in the lives of those affected by a disaster whether you are in the field or working behind the scenes.

— Posted by Jennifer Ingram, Communications Volunteer for the Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania

Me with some of my favorite volunteers at Red Ball

Vicki Worrall, Janice Winston and me at       Red Ball

I volunteer for the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. I am not trained in Emergency Services. I am not an instructor in swimming or First Aid. I cannot drive an ERV (The acronym for Emergency Response Vehicle, a Red Cross response truck). I do not ever deploy in the middle of the night to scenes of fire and flood. Nevertheless, I make my contribution. I take in information at the speed of sound.  My fingers are a blur at a keyboard.  I am here to tell the world what we do, why we do it and how it is absolutely essential to a just and humane society.

A short perusal of my file in the Volunteer folder of our hard drive reveals that, since becoming a volunteer, I have written 34 blogs, 26 news articles, 10 storyboards and countless news releases.  Some of my favorite pieces are about the history of the Red Cross – I did one on the how the service of one of our founding members was inspired by her experience on the Titanic – but the pieces I love the most are about the day to day efforts of ordinary members of our community to make the world a more caring place.

This leads me to this morning, when the Red Cross office here at 23rd and Chestnut was a little empty. Several people I work with were out attending the Montgomery County Heroes Breakfast. For the last couple years, I have had the pleasure of writing a short summary of the deeds of heroes in Bucks County for the program to be read by attendees.  The Montgomery heroesare equally impressive. There is no way that one event could capture all the extraordinary things that we do for one another every day, but it’s important to remember that the honorees are representative of the rest of us and our “better angels”. Among them, Patricia Lloyd used her Red Cross training to save a five-year-old from choking to death at her school. Montgomery County police officers risked their lives to apprehend a dangerous fugitive and protect their community. Fire Chief Thomas Hayden rescued two women from a home engulfed in flames.  Did you know that men like David Gartner give both blood and plasma several times a year, saving countless lives?

My workstation

I love telling these stories, which is why I keep coming back to this desk, despite an increasing busy professional schedule as my children age into their college years. The work we do is here is essential and important. The people who are trained to teach First Aid, who respond to emergency calls and who provide comfort to veterans and their families are deeply committed and caring. The world is an uncertain place and everyone here stays vigilant, just in case others need our help. It is an honor to sit at this keyboard.

— Submitted by Sarah Peterson, Proud Red Cross Communications Volunteer

rco_blog_img_BenFranklin

Not this Ben Franklin…

In the era of digital cameras, smartphones with 13 megapixel cameras that fit into your pocket, and everything being done remotely with a few strokes of a keyboard, you wouldn’t think getting a picture of a huge bridge would be all that difficult.

Well, you’d be wrong.

I preface this by saying this is absolutely no one’s fault. Everyone who helped with this did everything they could to facilitate. Every request I made was granted. But sometimes for a variety of reasons, even the smallest, simplest tasks, can wind up being a challenge.

Every March for Red Cross Month, I request the Delaware River Port Authority to light the Ben Franklin Bridge red to honor the work of the thousands of Red Cross volunteers. And DRPA always happily obliges by setting aside most days for the bridge to be red. (excluding March 17th when the bridge is green and a few other days here and there.)

Ben Franklin Bridge lit up on a normal evening. (Courtesy Jingoli.com)

This year was no exception. But I hit snags at just about every turn. First, there was some sort of construction on the bridge involving PATCO which made programming the light display on the bridge hit and miss. Some nights, the lights would work. Some nights they wouldn’t. Sadly, on the nights I dispatched a photographer to snap a photo, were nights the bridge wasn’t red.

I also called on my friends in the media to take beauty shots of the bridge lit in red during their news and weather casts. But without hard and fast dates and times, it’s difficult to ensure the bridge would ever make air.

Which brings me to last night (3/31), the last night of Red Cross Month and the last opportunity to get a photo of the bridge lit red.

I’m a lucky person. I work for the Red Cross so when I ask for a favor, people will go out of their way to try and help. The folks at DRPA exchanged emails with me and made phone calls off hours and over the weekend to make sure the bridge was red Monday night, March 31st, so I could get that photo, raise awareness about the great work the Red Cross does, and in a very real way, generate an extra sense of pride among our thousands of volunteers.

So I sent out the call one last time for volunteers to head to the bridge at dark to take pictures. (Not easy to do after 3 or 4 wild goose chases.) But as I mentioned earlier, people want to help the Red Cross. And bless their hearts, several people grabbed their iPhones and cameras to get the perfect shot. They even drove to Camden to get different angles.

At first, only a small part of the bridge was red and I began to get a huge sense of dread. Did I really do all this and ask others to do this AGAIN, for a few lights? I was feverishly texting back and forth with the volunteers in the area, asking who had the best angle. Could they see the red?

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Ben Franklin Bridge at 8:15pm on 3/31/14. Credit: Janice Winston

I’m sure I came off sounding like a crazed lunatic, obsessed with getting a photo of a bridge. But the volunteers didn’t complain. They have an overwhelming ability to be understanding. They have compassion, even for a guy who just wants a photo. They wanted to come through not for me, but for the Red Cross and their fellow volunteers.

And come through they did. It wasn’t until 11:30pm that all the volunteers were making their way home after chasing red lights on a bridge for four hours.  But the day after, I have plenty of great shots of the bridge lit in all its glorious red.

BRIDGE2

Credit: Bob Schmidt

 

And because DRPA came through for us, 6ABC’s Cecily Tynan gave the Red Cross a very nice shoutout during her weather cast.

 

It wasn’t easy, but mission accomplished, much like a disaster response. Rarely are they ever easy or go exactly according to plan. But Red Cross volunteers are adaptable, flexible, and understanding. They are compassionate. So even though in this case, Red Cross volunteers weren’t helping a family burned out their home by a fire or feeding a child at a shelter because a massive ice storm knocked out power to their home (although at the same time, other volunteers were responding to two fires in Philadelphia), they helped make a difference. They helped share their pride in the Red Cross with others as the photos are placed on Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, etc. They may have prompted someone to donate $25 to the Red Cross or better yet, volunteer.

bridge 1

Credit: Michelle Alton

car and bridge  MICHELLE

Ben Franklin Bridge with Red Cross vehicle. Credit: Michelle Alton

 

The willingness of volunteers to help is what makes the Red Cross run. So when you look at these photos, think of the volunteers who made them possible and be confident that when disaster strikes, the dedication and care volunteers give to getting a photo pales in comparison to the dedication and care they give to people in their moment of greatest need.

Want to see MORE photos of Ben Franklin decked in Red? Click here for the full set on Flickr.

 

m19074810_Volunteer-AppTake heed, everyone! The American Red Cross has a new App for your mobile devices, and it is awesome in its power and scope. On July 18, 2013, the Team Red Cross App will be available for download at your friendly neighborhood App store, and, if you are serious about helping your fellow humans, you should download it immediately.

Although, I’m sort of old school when it comes to social networking stuff (when I was a whippersnapper, the internet was for guys in thick glasses sitting by enormous mainframes), I am really impressed by potential for the Team Red Cross App to harness the power of volunteers. Recently, when tornadoes hit south of Oklahoma City, thousands of local residents contacted the Red Cross to ask how they could help. In the future, people in the area of a serious disaster will be able to download the Team Red Cross App onto their devices and use it to learn exactly how they can help. The app will provide short orientations for those who are willing to help stock warehouses, move supplies, set up cots, serve food in shelters and otherwise support those who were driven from their homes by a disaster. In addition, the app will link volunteers to other opportunities to serve elsewhere or in the future and inform volunteers about First Aid classes they could take to expand their skill base.

Sounds good, right? Well, here’s why this app is a fantastic development. It will allow users to share their involvement with the Red Cross through their own social networks and thereby act as ambassadors for Red Cross volunteerism in their communities. We know that people are influenced by the activities and interests of their friends, and if a person you care about passes on information about how easy it is to volunteer, you may be moved to do their same. Users will be able to earn badges on the app as they learn more and do more for others. And it’s from this pool of committed people that the American Red Cross will be able to recruit long term volunteers, encourage blood donations in high need areas, and even give people the opportunity to donate money. Even if they can’t volunteer, app users will be able to share preparedness information and content with those affected by a disastrous event.

Finally, it will give the media, which is often inundated with requests for how individuals can help in the wake of a serious event, a place to send people for information. Over one fifth of Americans have already used an American Red Cross App (for hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes) on their mobile device. In our busy lives, we are not always near a television or radio, but many of us own a smartphone or tablet from which we can access the information we need to prepare ourselves and to help others.apps-in-emergencies-infographic1

So please, go to the App Store immediately and download the Team Red Cross App. It’s free! Tell your friends. Help spread the word. Be an ambassador for the most efficient way to fight disaster since the invention of the water hose.  The Red Cross needs you.

DSC_0168_7138In the early morning hours of January 23nd, there was a serious house fire in East Norriton, Montgomery County. Since my volunteer role at the SEPA Red Cross began, I’ve been in the habit of checking the local news each morning. That’s how I saw the interview with the Montgomery County fire chief where he explained that the recent cold snap created some special challenges for the responders. It took a while to find a working hydrant. Water froze on contact with everything it touched: the grass, the pavement, the house. The hoses froze to the pavement and could not be moved once the fire was extinguished. Two fire fighters were hurt slipping on the ice. Two residents were hurt jumping out of a second floor window. It is safe to say that 10 degree temperatures made a terrible situation even worse, but the fire fighters were there to do their job and they deserve our admiration and respect.

The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania was also there. Volunteers rose in the middle of the night to be at the scene and care for residents forced out into the cold. They were there with financial assistance for food, clothing, shoes and winter coats to four people affected by the fire. Frozen hoses are not the only challenging consequence of a cold snap. Cold and fire are old friends. When heating bills become high and un-payable, people take risks to create heat. Stove burners are turned to high, a space heater overloads a socket, and an oven is turned to 500 degrees and left open.

In the last few frozen days, our volunteers responded to 10 fires in all five Southeastern, PA counties. We helped 48 people who were forced out of their homes. In every case, Red Cross volunteers were there side by side with fire fighters to do the other half of the work: care for the people involved.

These volunteers are extremely special people. Most of us are good at caring for our family and friends; very few of us are good at caring for strangers in 10 degree temperatures at 2:00 in the morning. But still Red Cross volunteers are there. We were there this week. Our volunteers are dedicated middle of the night risers, unstoppable on ice and determined to provide relief. We will see our region through the winter months, no matter how cold it gets

—————.

Below is a video of a separate fire response, this one Friday evening 1/25/13 in N. Wales, Montgomery County. It further underscores the point made above.

It was early (for a Saturday at least) when I got the call from Dave asking me to come to the shelter. He had been there all night and had fatherly duties he needed to fulfill. I was a little nervous as I had never been to an active shelter response and I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I got ready I scrolled through the Twitter feed that Dave had updated throughout the night. I had no idea the fire had affected so many people and it was just up the road from where I lived! Dave came out to meet me when I arrived at the shelter and updated me on the situation. Several of the displaced residents had found friends or family but around 20 remained. My job was to serve as the contact person if reporters wanted to interview a volunteer or client covering the Wyncote fire. I was also responsible for getting any new updates out to the public.

I ended up doing so much more than that.

Since it was my first time and I was hobbling around on crutches due to a fractured foot (from a sports injury) I wasn’t sure I would be able to help very much but I soon discovered that the Red Cross provides so much more than basic necessities. It provides human comfort and compassion in the face of disaster.

While I waited to hear back from a reporter I started to talk with another volunteer, Greg. We got on the subject of basketball, which as a Dallas Mavericks fan I was happy to commiserate with an equally disappointed Sixers fan. As we chatted, one of the residents joined in the conversation. We talked about our favorite players and moved on to football and he told us about his favorite teams and players. Our conversation turned to our families and he told us about his new granddaughter. Then he stopped and said that he wished he could show us pictures but they were all on the new smart phone his son had given him which he lost in the fire.

I reminded him that the great thing about living in this day and age is that cherished photos on cell phones are digital and can be retrieved. He agreed and told us that talking with us had allowed him, briefly, to forget about everything he had lost. He told us that the fire had started from his apartment and you could see the pain in his face as he relived the events of the night before.

I quickly changed the subject and Greg and the resident told me about their favorite Philadelphia stores growing up.

It was during that conversation I realized that what volunteers provide, more than a warm meal or a cot and blanket is compassion. Losses in a fire can be devastating and the Red Cross provides support. We reach out to someone who is suffering and ease their worries, remind them of what they still have and help them keep going. The ability to reach out to someone who is suffering and maybe for a time, ease their worries and remind them of all the things they have not lost and to keep going.