Tag Archives: International

Our region’s Int. Srvs. classes, discussions now offered online

To see more regional stories and other content related to the Red Cross response to the coronavirus pandemic, please see this blog post.

Like many other American Red Cross activities, the classes and discussion groups that have been hosted in our region by our International Services program are a service that has been re-engineered because of COVID-19 social-distancing requirements.

“When it became clear that this pandemic would be with us for a while, we started to rethink the way we were making our classes and other educational opportunities available,” says Go Funai, Director of the Service to the Armed Forces and International Services programs for the Northern California Coastal Region (NCCR).

So, beginning late last month, with an introductory course that is part of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) series, Funai’s International Services (IS) team has begun to deliver its educational offerings virtually.

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The work of the Red Cross continues – no matter what

The past six weeks have been unusually quiet in Northern California. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced much of the population indoors on shelter-in-place orders. For many, the 9-to-5 workday is a recent memory; classrooms are eerily silent. Parking lots nationwide sit empty; all but essential storefronts are closed indefinitely. The entire country has seemingly ground to a halt.

And yet, there are segments of the American workforce that forge on stronger than ever: intrepid healthcare workers, food service employees, first responders, and American Red Cross volunteers and employees. As the largest humanitarian aid organization in the country, the work of the Red Cross is constant, as is our commitment to helping those that need us.
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IS training underscores importance of International Humanitarian Law

together-for-humanity_420x279In early June, volunteers and staff of the American Red Cross International Services Division gathered in Orlando, Florida for a two-day training in International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The sessions provided much more than that!

The group was comprised of volunteers with a diversity of backgrounds: from lawyers, to International Red Cross delegates, to retired IHL military lawyers, to JAG officers who had been active in war zones. Taking place on June 1–2, the training focused on the “Rules of Engagement in Armed Conflict,” protection of the most vulnerable in times of war, and forced migration. Additionally, the group discussed best practices for outreach on these subjects.

The training was thoroughly inspiring. The IHL trainers — Randy Bagwell, Noah O’Connor, and Molly Kovite — were outstanding in their knowledge of the material and facilitated lively and inclusive discussions. All three were enthusiastic and supportive of the attendees throughout the training.

The first day included a discussion of why the American Red Cross teaches IHL and an introduction to the Humanity in War materials. The second day included a discussion of best practices in teaching that course and a presentation by DeAndrea Fuller, an expert-level instructor from the North Florida Region. She discussed her presentation of the Humanity in War course at the University of North Florida. In addition to learning from everyone’s wealth of knowledge and experience, we were able to gather new tools for teaching IHL and provide input into developing a relevant outreach program.

The momentum from the training catalyzed a number of ideas. Currently in our Northern California Coastal Region, we have planned a number of ways to bring IHL to volunteers, paid staff, and the public at large. Two International Services boot camps — day-long trainings — have already been conducted with several others scheduled for the remainder of 2019-20. The boot camps cover IHL, Restoring Family Links (RFL), and introduce information about Measles Advocacy, Mapping, and an overview of the Youth Action Campaign (YAC).

To acknowledge the diversity of our community, our boot camp students are encouraged to bring a dish that represents their family heritage to share with classmates during a potluck lunch. Additionally, our regional volunteers will be teaching the Born on the Battlefield course at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the fall. Also, volunteers are now members of the local Human Trafficking Coalition, and we continue to represent Red Cross and the international work we do in local Migrant Forums.

Next spring, a symposium on “Forced Migration, Solutions and Challenges” is envisioned in which the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), International Rescue Committee, ARC representatives, and subject experts will be invited to three-day, three-venue program to be presented in local universities to students and the general public. IS is also interested in reaching out to local law schools to engage them in IHL for Lawyers. As part of our outreach efforts, we are also planning short talks for service clubs.

This fall in the Central Coast we are also creating a monthly discussion group that focuses on current international events and the response of the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross) and the ICRC.

I’m very grateful that I was recommended by our region to take the training and become certified as an expert-level instructor in IHL. Even more importantly, the training exposed me to the endless possibilities that can occur when minds come together to discuss the significance of including humanity as a necessary element in any formula of war and forced migration.

Email Go Funai or Jill Hofmann to participate in our International Services program.


Red Cross ‘boot camp’ will introduce attendees to International Services


The presenters at the first boot camp hosted by International Services gathered outside the Carmel Office in March. Pictured are (l-r) Simone Cesa de Melo, Laura Fullem-Chavis, Mo Ghandehari, Jill Hofmann, and Go Funai.

The International Services Team of the American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region is hosting a “boot camp” in San Francisco in June that is designed to inform attendees about the program’s many activities — and prepare them to help.

The workshop, the second the group has hosted in recent months, will take place on June 22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Red Cross office at 1663 Market Street. More than two dozen people squeezed into the first boot camp at the Red Cross office in Carmel on March 9.

Sessions planned for that day will introduce attendees to:

“The International Services Boot Camp is a way to complete trainings and workshops in our key activity areas, all in one day,” says Go Funai, Director of International Services in the region. “It’s also an opportunity to meet some of the most interesting, intelligent, and caring people around.”

The workshop is designed for current Red Cross volunteers and employees. Interested people should send email in advance to Go Funai.

Jill Hofmann, an International Services volunteer, says organizers are asking attendees to participate in a potluck lunch. “We’re hoping that they can bring a food dish to share that represents their family heritage.”

If people have questions about the workshop, they may also send email to Danielle Halprin or Jill Hofmann (or phone Jill at 831-566-8841).

A story of exodus, separation, and reunion

Two sisters reconnect through Red Cross program

Wars, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and poverty — having plagued humanity for centuries — sadly continue to be part of our heritage today. The terms are synonymous with death, destruction, and the displacement of millions. But in spite of everything, there is still HOPE, manifest in the work of a humanitarian organization that lights the way amid the darkness.

By Samar M. Salma

Photo of Tamara holding a photo of her as a child with her parents.

Tamara is holding a cherished photo of herself, her late husband Oleg, and their daughter, Natalie. (Photo: Samar M. Salma)

From 1941 to 1944, the Germans subjected Leningrad, the former capital of Russia known today as “Saint Petersburg,” to one of the longest and most destructive chapters of World War II. Historians believe that the Siege of Leningrad — occurring over a nearly 900-day period — resulted in the deaths of up to 1.5 million soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of another 1.4 million people, mostly women and children. Read more

Consider helping with ‘Missing Maps’ project


These maps have already helped save lives following disasters in Nepal, Haiti, Ecuador, West Africa, and Madagascar.

Each year, disasters around the world kill nearly 100,000 and affect or displace 200 million people. Many of the places where these disasters occur are literally ‘missing’ from any map, and first responders lack the information to make valuable decisions regarding relief efforts. “Missing Maps” is a collaborative project in which organizations, companies, and individuals are helping to map areas where humanitarian organizations are trying to meet the local needs.

The American Red Cross is a key partner in this effort. Read more