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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fall of Saigon: One Woman's Harrowing Tale with a Happy Ending

On April 30, 1975 -- 40 years ago today -- Saigon fell to The People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. Many people remember the striking images of people evacuating from Saigon and South Vietnam on April 29 and 30.

Thu-Thuy Truong was 13 at the time and one of thousands of Vietnamese who fled on April 30. Earlier this month, we welcomed Thu-Thuy Trong as a guest speaker to talk about her experience and how the Red Cross helped reconnect her family with their father, from whom they were separated during the incident. Her story is both harrowing and inspiring.

She shares an abbreviated version of her story in this video:



Find out more about Red Cross Restoring Family Links programs at www.redcross.org/familylinks.

Connecting Colorado Nepali Community to Information, Family in Wake of Earthquake

On Wednesday, April 29, at least 50 Colorado residents who have ties to Nepal and surrounding countries gathered at the Asian Pacific Development Center in Aurora to seek information about international relief efforts in response to the devastating 7.8 Magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal on the morning of April 25, 2015.

About 50 people gather at the APDC to find out more about
Nepal Earthquake disaster relief efforts.
Colorado Red Cross staff presented about Red Cross efforts in response to the earthquake, how people here can help, and how they can use Red Cross Restoring Family Links services to contact loved ones in the affected areas.

The global Red Cross network, led by the Nepal Red Cross and supported by the American Red Cross, has mounted an international response to provide emergency humanitarian assistance.  The Nepal Red Cross is providing first aid, search and rescue, blood to medical facilities in the capital and support to first responders.

The APDC provided live interpretation for
immigrants and refugees from Nepal.
The American Red Cross has committed an initial $1,000,000 to the relief operation and is working closely with the Nepal Red Cross and the global Red Cross network to coordinate additional support, including mobilizing supplies and providing remote mapping and information management. The American Red Cross is arranging supplies from its warehouses in Kuala Lumpar and Dubai, including non-food items such as tarps, buckets, kitchen sets and blankets to be sent to Nepal -- although logistical transport remains a challenge.

Members of the audience raised their concerns about getting supplies to the families who need help, wondering how they could send tents from Colorado and whether relief supplies are “stuck” at the airport.  Our local Red Cross staff answered candidly: mailing supplies, in small quantities, from this far away, is not the most efficient way to help those in Nepal  -- it is more cost effective and efficient for aid agencies to get tarps, tents and other high-demand supplies by purchasing them in bulk from the nearest source to the disaster, or by receiving them as bulk donations.

Audience members wanted to know
how to help families in Nepal.
According to USAID, cash donations are the best way to help following a disaster because they entail no transportation costs, no delays, no customs and other fees, no carbon footprint and they do not divert relief workers’ time. In addition, cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased in markets close to the disaster site, which stimulates local economies by stabilizing employment and generating cash flow.  Few material donations have this highly beneficial impact.

In terms of delivering supplies, it can be challenging to reach survivors when infrastructure is destroyed, damaged – or never existed. Accessibility and transportation are challenging in Nepal in the best of times. Before the earthquake, many rural communities where the Nepal Red Cross worked were only accessible by foot. The main international airport in Kathmandu is a very basic facility. With the destruction, this situation is even more dire and getting supplies and transporting them within country is going to be a major challenge.

One way the American Red Cross is helping to alleviate this challenge is through mapping and information management. The public can help, too. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can help map the affected areas through OpenStreetMap. Already, more than 2,000 people have contributed to the maps. Visit http://tasks.hotosm.org to get started.

After disasters strike, updated maps are extremely important to emergency responders. These maps help us measure the damage, identify priority areas, navigate our way around damaged roadways, and more efficiently deliver aid to people in need. When we deployed people to Nepal, we sent them with maps to use and share with other Red Cross team members on the ground.

The audience members maintain close ties to their homeland.
Although many of the people who attended the meeting were most concerned about how they can help Nepal, Red Cross workers were also focused on how we can help alleviate their anxiety and fear by helping them reconnect with loved ones in Nepal and the affected areas.

The Red Cross workers explained how residents here in Colorado can initiate a family tracing case for loved ones whose wheareabouts are unknown, and how we will be offering phone call services for those who know their loved ones are OK but don’t have a means to call them from Denver.

Find out more about the ongoing Red Cross response to the Nepal Earthquake at www.redcross.org. For individuals looking for family who live in the affected area, visit http://familylinks.icrc.org/nepal-earthquake. Help is also available for those who can't access the web site by calling 303-607-4771.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thank You Mile High Chapter Volunteers!

Volunteers make up more than 90% of the Red Cross workforce in Colorado, so it’s no exaggeration to say that the Red Cross IS its volunteers.

Each year, we take a moment to highlight, recognize and thank some of the extraordinary volunteers who deliver our services with compassion, care, creativity and dedication.

These are the volunteers who give more, do more, accomplish more – the volunteers who lead, inspire and touch lives. They make a difference in big ways and in the vast impact of many small acts over time.

On Sunday, April 26, the Red Cross Mile High Chapter held its annual Volunteer Recognition Event to thank all chapter volunteers and to recognize a very special set of volunteers with awards.
Read a little about each of these extraordinary volunteers below.

Special Achievement Awards

Mile High Chapter Volunteer of the Year – Joan Cernich
Joan Cernich, Center, with Tisha and Brian Schuller.
This award is for exceptional volunteer service and commitment to support and improve the quality of service provided by the American Red Cross.

Joan has been committed to the Red Cross for 12 years, including serving in a leadership role in Boulder and Broomfield.  She has championed the direction and cohesiveness of the Boulder/ Broomfield Disaster Action Team and demonstrated great leadership during the 2013 floods and subsequent flood recovery efforts. Joan is known for her great communication skills, respectful interactions, openness

BJ Coyle Passion for Service Award – Kitty Sherman

As volunteer partner to the Mile High Chapter Volunteer Services Manager, Kitty is often the first person a new volunteer interacts with when they contact the Red Cross.  Kitty is gentle, easy-going, fun-natured and easy to work with. 

Kitty is so dedicated and professional – and gives so much time – that new volunteers are often surprised to find that the person diligently emailing them, interviewing them, and helping them through the on-boarding process is a volunteer like themselves. Kitty not only comes in three days a week, but on her days off she continues to email volunteers and staff so no detail goes unattended.

Volunteer Leadership Award – John Miller
John is Chairman of Disaster Cycle Services for the Colorado & Wyoming Region; he is Volunteer Partner to the Regional Disaster Cycle Services Officer, serves on the Volunteer Leadership Council, and is a Boulder Disaster Action Team Captain and Disaster Assessment Manager.  These are only a few of the leadership positions he has held over nearly a decade of service with the Red Cross. 

John has deployed to 24 National Disaster Relief Operations. Because of his leadership and experience, he is considered a regional subject matter expert in the field of disaster assessment and participates in divisional planning and best practice groups.

Outstanding Team – Restoring Family Links Team
This amazing team logged about 790 hours of volunteer time last year helping to reconnect families and educate our community about Red Cross Restoring Family Links services available to them.  The team includes Christina Eyre, Katie Lynn-Vecqueray, Adam Bradbury, Melody Storgaard, Michael Dirks, Michael Kearns, Robbe Sokolove, Amanda Doll, Karolina Kuczyc,  Elayna McCall, Karen Stewart, Erika Miyamoto and Cassie Schoon.

Last fiscal year they worked 176 cases and conducted 398 services on those cases.  This case volume marks a 76% increase from the previous year and has increased the region from a 28th ranking in the nation to 8th in the nation.  Additionally, the team won the National Red Cross Restoring Family Links FY14 Story Campaign and received special recognition from Harold Brooks, Senior Vice President of International Services. 

Unsung Hero Award – Lyn Hall
Lyn serves quietly and with great kindness as she completes her tasks as the database maintenance lead for the learning management system the Red Cross uses.
Lyn is exceptionally reliable and committed to serve every Tuesday for the past year.  She works on database accounts, updates transcripts, merges accounts, adds courses, troubleshoots, and accomplishes these detailed tasks with a smile on her face and a great attitude of service.  Always behind the scenes, always caring… that is Lyn.

Century Recognition – Carol Murphy
Carol volunteered over 600 hours and donated her own funds to realize “Colorado Red Cross: A Century of Service,” a publication commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first Red Cross chapter charter in Colorado. Carol spent hours interviewing paid and volunteer staff, spent countless hours in the archives of the History Colorado Museum and braved many frigid days in the basement of 444 Sherman sifting through papers and boxes searching for the perfect photo for the book and the timeline that was the backdrop for numerous events.

In additions to volunteering, Carol is also a donor.  She and her husband made a generous donation after super storm Sandy.  At the time, she said, “It is criminal to see a need and not do anything…if you can do something, you should.”  And so she did.  In addition, Carol and her husband matched the chapter’s expenditures on the book, doubling the original budget. 

Departmental Awards and Other Recognitions

Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership - Connie Hoffer


Board Member of the Year -  Tisha Schuller



Fundraising Volunteers of the Year  - Don & Linda Childears



Disaster Cycle Services  (Preparedness)  Volunteer of the Year - David Cook



Disaster Cycle Services  (Response) Volunteer of the Year - Vicky Baker



Disaster Cycle Services (Recovery) Volunteer of the Year -  Jason Webster



Preparedness, Health and Safety Services Volunteer of the Year - Aimon Alkanani



International Services Volunteer of the Year - Robbe Sokolove



Communications Volunteer of the Year - Elisa DiTrolio



Volunteer Services Volunteer of the Year - Karen Pierson


To view more photos of the event, visit our Flickr album: 

Neighborhood Evacuation Exercise Helps People Prepare

Red Cross volunteer Roger Bram directs the Emergency
 Response Vehicle for the Palmer Park neighborhood
evacuation exercise in Colorado Springs.
Photo  credit American Red Cross
Story by Leila Roch, American Red Cross

On Saturday morning, many residents in the Palmer Park neighborhood received a knock on their door and a reverse 911 phone call from police officers asking them to please leave their homes. They were evacuated and quickly ushered from their homes to Sabine Middle School.

Fortunately, flames were not the cause this evacuation.

In preparation for the wildfire season, the City of Colorado Springs organized a mock evacuation of the area with more than 160 families opting in. The Pikes Peak American Red Cross, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and Colorado Springs Salvation Army set up a mock shelter to assist and inform participants what to do and what is available to them in the event of a real evacuation.

Volunteers Peter Booth (l) and Rick Levis set up a cot for the
mock shelter at the Palmer Park neighborhood evacuation
exercise. Photo credit American Red Cross
“I think overall the response has been just really wonderful,” said Sally Broomfield, Pikes Peak American Red Cross disaster program manager. “People are really glad to know what we do, what the other agencies do and have an opportunity to practice. They come here they get a little brief and then we’ve set up a little demonstration shelter so that people can see what a shelter looks like if they actually have to evacuate.”

Volunteers debrief at the end of the Palmer Park
evacuation exercise in Colorado Springs.
 Photo credit American Red Cross
The morning of the drill more than 60 Red Cross volunteers organized to assist the 200-400 expected residents who would be coming through the school’s gymnasium, where volunteers had set up a mock shelter. As groups entered the gymnasium, they were escorted by a Red Cross tour guide who walked them through stations representing each service the Red Cross provides during a crisis – from food to mental health to its “Safe and Well” station, where residents can register to let loved ones know they are OK.

The Humane Society was also on site to help residents with pets familiarize themselves with the procedure of checking in their pets during an emergency. The Salvation Army provided breakfast to participating residents prior to the tours. And fire crews practiced staging, check-in and inter-agency operations in the neighborhoods. Thirty-one departments and agencies participated in the drill.

American Red Cross nursing volunteers Deborah Wetherill
 and Amy Dreher welcome exercise volunteer Mike
Nowak to the shelter nursing station during  the Palmer Park
 evacuation exercise in Colorado Springs, CO.
Photo credit American Red Cross
 “It’s so important,” Broomfield said. “We live in a really high risk area, and we’ve seen over the past few years what it looks like when large numbers of people have to evacuate.”

To learn more about how you can be better prepared for emergencies visit www.redcross.org/prepare.

Download our free mobile app, Emergency, at www.redcross.org/mobileapps to see how you can be notified about emergencies and stay in contact with your family. Available for iPhone and Android formats.