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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Home Fire is Anything But 'Routine' For The Survivors

“Just Routine, Really.” 
On Duty and Response with Red Cross Volunteers 
Story and Pictures: Ed O’Brien – Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

On a cold mid-November afternoon, in a tightly packed mobile home park in Brighton, a small fire in a garden shed spread to two adjacent structures, rendering each trailer uninhabitable.  This fire displaced two families and 10 people.

One of the damaged trailers after the home fire.

“Just routine, really,” said the police officer who waved the Red Cross response truck into the fire scene. For the policeman it likely was routine. The fire-crew doused it quickly. Routine. The neighbors were helpful and interested. Routine. Children teased one another and played soccer among the ashes as they collected stories for tomorrow’s telling. Even this had a sense of routine.

It was all certainly unfortunate, but also very lucky – as no one was injured.
Volunteer Chris Humphries asks a resident about the damage to her home.


On that note and in this setting arrives a Red Cross Disaster Action Team led by volunteer Chris Humphries. This team is the first step for reestablishing a real routine back into the lives of 10 displaced people.

A casual gathering forms around the Response Truck. The conversation is lively, quick, and interested, as the shock and chaos of the fire fades. Reassurance in the face of Chris Humphries helps ease the neighbors towards recovery.
Displaced family members look at the burned out trailers as
Chris Humphries fills out their Red Cross paperwork. 

“We need everything right now – food, clothes, a home. It’s cold and the holidays are coming. This is tough, really tough,” said one of the displaced residents.

So for these 10 displaced people, our Red Cross job is to help bring back routine to their lives. One layer at a time. Each layer a step towards, well… routine.

What do they need for the next three days? Food, shelter, secure storage for their household goods. Done!

What do they need for the next three weeks? Help with paperwork. Counseling. Reassurance. Follow-up. On-going!

What do they need for the next three months? A plan to rebuild. Replacement of lost items. Getting their stored items back in a new home. To resume their “routine.”
Saved items - water logged and partially burned pictures plus a
sooty religious statue  - are testament to lives disrupted


The Red Cross has expertise, donations, and layers of volunteers to help. Heart- rending, immediate emergencies require patient, dedicated recovery efforts. We do this work thousands of times per year. Yes, even for us this is routine too. But then, all those who have aided – from firefighters and police to the Red Cross –  all of us are here to do our job: To return these 10 people and all those we serve, back to their routine again.


Friday, November 14, 2014

November's Lunch and Learn to Feature "Lost Boy of Sudan," Manyang Reath Ker

Manyang Reath Ker, Wednesday's Lunch and Learn speaker
There are situations in which someone could be forgiven for giving up hope, and this month’s lunch and learn speaker, Manyang Reath Ker, has been in many of them. Manyang, a “Lost Boy” displaced by the Sudanese civil war, spent 13 years of his young life hungry, homeless and displaced in refugee camps along the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. But during these impossibly difficult times, Manyang spent whatever time and resources he could reaching out to the family he’d lost in the Sudanese civil war.

With the help of the Restoring Family Links (RFL) service offered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Manyang made attempts to contact his mother and reassure her that he was still alive. When he finally received refugee status at age 17, Manyang came to the United States, but never relented in his efforts to reconnect with his family. One could forgive Manyang for moving on with his newfound life in the U.S., for immersing himself in the life of a teenager and college student and turning away from his past in Sudan. But Manyang gives the distinct impression that he is actually incapable of giving up.

“I wrote letters, probably… over three hundred letters trying to locating my mother and find out where my family was,” Manyang said. “I wrote again and again, and in 2011, I got a letter saying they’d found my mother. And I talked to my mother for the first time in 20 years.” It was the first time he’d been in contact with his mother since the age of three.

Manyang is now an RFL volunteer with the Red Cross, as well as the founder of an organization called Humanity Helping Sudan, which provides food aid and education to Sudanese refugees. As a volunteer and a Good Samaritan, Manyang says he is personally dedicated to ensuring that the Red Cross and the RFL program are recognized for how they helped him and his family. “The American Red Cross was very good for me. When I give a talk, or when anyone asks me about my personal life story, I talk about the Red Cross because there is no way they’re separated,” he said.

Manyang hopes that the audience at the Lunch and Learn event will come away from the event with a better understanding of how each human being is connected to those who endure suffering like what he lived through in Sudan. “That’s what’s important: I want to talk about the humanity. It’s something in our DNA... we have the power to talk about what we want to change,” he said. “And I believe we can change lives for the better.”

The Lunch and Learn lecture will be presented at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. at these times:

  •  Wednesday, Nov. 19, from noon to 1 p.m. - RSVP via  this SurveyMonkey link
  • Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 5:70-7:30 p.m. - RSVP here.
Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe at (303) 607-4785.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Preserving a Piece of Red Cross History for our 100th year Celebration

By Andrea Stone/American Red Cross

 Forgotten for more than 30 years, it was a piece of Red Cross histoy wrapped in the pages of history.

Painting by Glen Ault completed in 1943-44 to support
Red Cross blood drives during WWII. Photo by
Andrea Stone/American Red Cross
When 84-year-old Rosemary Ault was doing her spring cleaning, she found a painting with the slogan “Blood Saves Lives” above a Red Cross tent. The painting, done by her husband in the 1940s, had been wrapped in an issue of the Gazette Telegraph dated June 9, 1946.

“It was hung for a while, I think, and then wrapped in this ever since … I talked to his sister about it, and she thought it was probably in his junior year, which would’ve been 1943-44,” she said.

During the years of World War II, the Red Cross, at the military’s request, initiated a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces.

In addition to the blood drives, the Red Cross enrolled more than 104,000 nurses for military service, prepared 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war and shipped more than 300,000 tons of supplies overseas.

Glen Ault’s inspiration for the painting may have been the extensive work of the Red Cross during those years, but whatever his inspiration, the painting sat, forgotten.

“I found it just a short time ago behind a dresser. It’s been there all these years,” she said. Rosemary Ault has lived in the house for 36 years.

The couple, who moved to Colorado Springs in 1947, met on a blind date and were married for 43 years until Glen Ault’s death in 1991. Rosemary Ault said she doesn’t know what might have motivated her husband to paint the picture, but when she found it, she couldn’t bear to get rid of it.

“I just thought, ‘I can’t throw it away after it’s been saved all those years, even though I didn’t know it was there,” she said. “I just felt somebody ought to have it.”

Rather than getting rid of it, Ault donated the painting to the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross in Colorado Springs.  The painting will be framed and hung in the Chapter office as a reminder of the contribution the Red Cross made during that important part of American history.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Are you ready for a three dog night?

Have you ever heard of a “three dog night”? No, not the musical group from the 70s but stories from surviving extreme cold.

Back in the day during extreme cold people would allow their dogs to sleep in bed with them and the colder it got the more dogs they needed. A really, really cold night was often labeled “a three dog night” because you would need at least three dogs to stay warm.

Well, over the next few days it looks like at least one of the nights will be a three dog night. It has been a while since we Coloradans have experienced the extreme cold blasts, well several months anyway, and some of us may need a quick safety refresher so that we can effectively weather the storm.

We thought it would be a good time to provide some winter safety tips.
Make sure your home is ready for the cold. Disconnect hoses and cover exposed pipes.
Have your furnace and fire place checked and cleaned before turning them on. Remember that carbon monoxide is a killer so you want your heating devices to be working properly.
Be very careful with open flames and space heaters. As temperatures fall the number of home fires caused by unsafe heating devices goes up.
Don't forget to dress according to the wind chill index. This is especially true for the young and the elderly. They can develop hypothermia fast if they are not protected. Click for a printable wind chill chart from the National Weather Service.
Don't forget about your pets. They may have fur coats but it won't keep out extreme cold. You may want to bring them inside.
Make sure your car is ready for extreme cold. Check batteries, antifreeze and keep your fuel tank more than half full.
Keep an emergency kit in your car with food supplies, water and flash lights and a first aid kit.
Don’t depend on your car heater to protect you. If you get stranded and you are not dressed properly you might experience the phenomena known as hypothermia. That's when your body temperature drops sharply and your internal heater can’t keep up. Uncontrollable shivering, dizziness, and slurred speech are all danger signs when you are exposed to the cold.
Speaking of slurred speech and dizziness, don’t think that alcohol will keep you warm. The opposite is the case as alcohol dulls your senses and prevents your body from making appropriate adjustments to ward off the cold.
Check on your neighbor, family and friends. Make sure they have the ways and means to be safe in times of extreme cold.

These are just a few quick safety tips for surviving winter cold. We have lots more on our web site www.redcross.org/prepare. We even have a downloadable checklist for winter storms, power outages frostbite and hypothermia at www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster-safety-library.

So, huddle up and stay warm and just to be fair you can also make it a “three cat night”.