Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Volunteers in Grand Junction work to save lives across the world

By Jasmine Liddington

For 130 years the American Red Cross has been operating as part of an international network of Red Cross societies that work to reduce human suffering in the face of disasters and emergencies. This work takes place both at the local level and through international, collaborative efforts.

For example, the American Red Cross and its partners have already vaccinated more than 1.1 billion children against measles and rubella, allowing those children to live a healthier and more productive life. Despite the success of the Measles and Rubella Initiative, access to vaccinations worldwide continues to be a problem, so Red Cross chapters in the United States – including right here in Colorado – are redoubling efforts to support these programs to eradicate these preventable diseases.

Thanks to a recent infusion of volunteer staffing, we’re about to see a significant increase in contributions from the Western Colorado Chapter in Grand Junction.

“The International Service program has always been in existence in Western Colorado, but we didn’t have anyone driving it. That’s about to change,” said Western Colorado Chapter Executive Director Eric Myers.

Grand Junction native Robert Buckley is a Master’s student who approached the Red Cross in hopes of fulfilling his internship through their International Service department. Rob’s passion for international service started when he became a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal. After the Peace Corps left Nepal, he chose to stay and founded a non-profit called “Himalayan Healers,” which he operated for more than 10 years. Before leaving Nepal he handed “Himalayan Healers” over to local control and moved back to America with his wife to complete his Master’s degree in Human Services.
Robert Buckley and his family in Nepal

Eric offered Rob the reins of the chapter’s International Services program and together they are developing a community-based program to support the Red Cross Measles and Rubella Initiative.

Their vision is a peer-to-peer training program that will utilize high school students to raise both money and awareness for the Initiative. They plan to recruit roughly 30 high school students who will work in teams of three to deliver lesson plans to their classmates, as well as to middle schools and elementary schools.

Rob also hopes the Western Colorado project can serve as a model that can be easily adopted in communities across Colorado and beyond.

“This program will not only raise money for the Measles and Rubella Initiative, but also educate communities on the importance of immunizations -- and give young people a chance to be a part of volunteerism, international service, and leadership,” Rob said.

Eric also hopes the project will plant the seed for a long-term, active International Services program in Western Colorado. “The goal is to find dedicated volunteers and youths who want to maintain interest in International Services and continue to develop initiatives that the Western Slope communities feel passionate about and want to get involved in overseas,” he said.

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