Monday, September 15, 2014

Wednesday Lunch & Learn: The Logistical Challenges of Refugee Resettlement

From the physical feat of crossing borders to the ongoing work of reconnecting with family members and learning the culture of their new countries, refugee resettlement is a process comprised of thousands of small tasks and many large ones. Thankfully, there are organizations who ensure that the families and individuals fleeing violence and natural disaster don’t face these challenges alone. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees, or the UNHCR, has been a resource for tens of millions of refugees since its inception in 1950. At this Wednesday’s International Services Lunch and Learn event, two speakers, Pilar Robledo and Jeremy Harker, will discuss their work with the UNHCR to safeguard the rights of displaced persons and offer resources to refugees as they begin a new life in a new homeland.
The UNHCR, founded in 1950, offers resources
for refugees as a global agency of the United Nations.

Pilar Robledo came to the UNHCR following her Peace Corps engagement in Kyrgyzstan. After working as a consultant to other organizations under the umbrella of the UN, Robledo interviewed with the UNHCR and was asked to begin work on a survey to identify the educational needs of Afghan refugees staying in Pakistan. Her work was to focus on some of the most insecure areas of the country, and would be conducted in the midst of conflict and natural disasters in the region.

“After two years of planning, one month before our fieldwork and data collection began, Pakistan faced a devastating flood, and 1 million homes were destroyed and 20 million people were displaced or affected” She said. “We had to reroute many of the target districts, and still maintain the representativeness of the survey.”

Jeremy Harker, whose work with the UNHCR began with an internship in Ecuador and focused on refugee populations in Latin and South America, says that in some ways, managing programs for refugees is similar to program management in the for-profit world, but there are also significant differences in what considerations need to be made.

“In [a refugee resettlement] environment, you mostly run a program as you would otherwise, but working with refugees, especially in a country like Ecuador which borders Colombia, where most of the people have fled from, you do have to have some sensitivity to their culture and specific challenges,” he said. “Refugees are affected in all sorts of ways. If someone has PTSD, for example, you need to make sure their resettlement program doesn’t cause them harm, whether through thing’s they’re exposed to or the people within they’re working with.” Through his talk at the Lunch and Learn, Harkey hopes to help others better understand the plight of refugees abroad.

“I hope that those who attend will come away with a better grasp on what those fleeing their countries of origin have gone through,” he said. “Both in terms of the drivers of having to leave a home country but also the programs and different international organizations, like the UNHRC and the Red Cross who help them along the way. Robledo hopes that Lunch & Learn attendees will better understand that the United States is in a privileged position to help international refugees find safety and settlement after escaping from affected areas.

“When people want to come to the United States and live here because they can prosper, we should be proud that we are a country that can offer that to the most vulnerable populations on earth,” she said.

“When people want to come to the United States and live here because they can prosper, we should be proud that we are a country that can offer that to the most vulnerable populations on earth,” she said.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Sept. 17, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, to Tim Bothe at Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Red Cross Story: Four Generations of Red Cross Volunteering

Brinley Broomfield (L) and her mom, Sally Broomfield
at the Pikes Peak Chapter. Photo by Bill Fortune
By Sally Broomfield

See that beautiful girl on the left? That’s my daughter. (Yes, I am biased). Her name is Brinley, she is 16 years old, and she just earned Volunteer of the Month at the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross.

I’m over there on the right, Sally Broomfield, Disaster Program Manager for that same chapter.

The one you don’t see is my son, Nick. He is 19 years old, an FSI and Volunteer Services Volunteer with us, but he’s camera shy.
You know what else you can’t see in this picture? The four generations of my family who have volunteered with the Red Cross.

As World War II raged, American men and women rallied to the cause of freedom, left their homes and traveled overseas to fight or volunteer for their country. On the home front, nearly everyone played some sort of role to support the war effort. With so many of our young men and women deployed, gaps were left in factories, civic duties and hospitals. With two young children at home, Dorothy Mae Whitmarsh Bean, Brinley’s great-grandmother, could not go overseas, so she did what she could from American shores. She joined the American Red Cross and volunteered her time as a nurse’s aide in a local hospital. Her eight year old daughter, Elizabeth, contributed to the war effort by fixing the meals for the household, and taking care of the housework.
Fast forward to 1955. Brinley’s grandmother, Elizabeth, is now a Navy wife stationed in Hawaii with a young son. With time on her hands, a tradition of volunteerism behind her and a teacher by training, she naturally gravitates to helping and instructing others. She becomes a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor!

Brinley’s history of volunteerism comes from both sides of the family tree. In 1974, her other grandmother, Hilda Fountain, retired from a career as a social worker and began to volunteer with the American Red Cross at High Point Regional Hospital in North Carolina. At the time, she was 66 years old. Thirty-seven years later, when she retired from volunteering at the age of 102, the hospital created an award for volunteer service and named it after her.

Brinley’s mother, that would be me, came next. I started volunteering as a Government Liaison with the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross in 2012, one week before the worst wildfire in Colorado history hit our town. The next year, we got hit again by another wildfire, which surpassed the previous year’s fire, and while we were still reeling from that fire, we were hit by flood after flood after flood. I became the Disaster Program Manager in 2013, and when Brinley and her brother Nick came home from college this past summer, they became the fourth generation of our family to volunteer for the Red Cross.

Am I proud? Darn right! Red Cross is like family to me, and to have my own family a part of such a great and noble tradition means the world to me.

Red Cross Joins in Commemorating One-Year Anniversary of 2013 Floods

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the historic floods that devastated several Colorado counties in 2013, we have an opportunity to commemorate the event and join with thousands of our fellow Coloradans in remembering those whose lives were forever altered, thanking the heroes who saved lives and tirelessly provided aid, and recognizing that for many, the long road to recovery is far from complete.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, along with the Colorado Recovery Office and Serve Colorado, selected Saturday, September 13, as Colorado United Day in commemoration of the 2013 Floods. This is designated as a day of service that recognizes the strength and resilience of all Coloradans and offers an opportunity to again join together in service.

The Red Cross will join in commemorating the one-year anniversary by participating in several events that are planned for Colorado United Day.

Cyclists for Lyons - Three fundraising races/rides will be taking place
-Red Cross will host a water station and preparedness information display and
 provide ponchos, in partnership with Lyons Strong, in case of rain

St. Vrain Moving Forward - Playground building in St. Vrain Valley Park
-Red Cross will host a water station and preparedness information display

Salina Community Event - A “meditative walk through the trees” and lunch
-Red Cross will be participate in this event along with the Salina community

Evans Picnic -Commemorative party to be held in Evans
-Red Cross will participate in these events along with the Evans community

Jamestown Community Celebration -Red Cross will fund and participate in an emotional resilience art project

In addition to commemorating the 2013 floods on September 13, the Red Cross will continue to provide support for flood recovery. During late September and early October the Red Cross will host a series of CPR/AED and First Aid classes for residents and emergency responders in Lyons, Estes Park, Nederland and Ward.  These towns were virtually cut off from emergency support during the floods and members of their community determined these classes would improve medical response should that ever happen again.

Also this fall, the Red Cross will provide funds for radio/communications equipment to shore up the emergency communications capabilities of towns like Gold Hill, Big Elk and Pinewood - allowing them to purchase and install radios, pagers, repeaters and other equipment vital for communicating during disasters, when traditional communications infrastructure may be down or hindered.

There are many activities planned to commemorate the 2013 floods. If you would like to volunteer or participate in an event please visit the Serve Colorado web site for a clickable map with links to organizations needing volunteers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2013 Colorado Floods: Looking Back One Year Later

by Bill Fortune
One year after the historic floods that affected a third of Colorado’s counties, the American Red Cross continues to help individuals and communities.

Our hearts go out to the people and communities who have suffered from the devastating floods. We know it has been hard and we are still with you all the way.

Our volunteers and employees have been working diligently since the night before the floods struck to provide safety, comfort, care and aid to those affected. To commemorate the anniversary of these devastating floods, we thought it would be interesting to look back through the stories and information that we have shared over the past 12 months.

The following are links to stories on our Colorado Red Cross blog. We hope that as you browse these articles, you will witness the commitment and compassion of our dedicated Red Cross volunteers as they’ve served people affected by the2013 Colorado Floods. You will also see the hardships that those people endured and the strength of their character as they continue the long road to recovery.