Tag Archives: Regional

The Cost of War

Red Cross teen volunteers spread awareness about the impact of armed conflict

By Marcia Antipa

“It’s just better for humanity that everyone knows about it.”

IHL In the Bay, a Youth Action Campaign team from the East Bay.

Bay Area teen Janaki Rakesh is talking about International Humanitarian Law (IHL), a set of rules developed under the Geneva Conventions designed to limit the impacts of armed conflict.

Rakesh and 40 other students in the Northern California Coastal Region are studying IHL through the Red Cross Youth Action Campaign (YAC).   

Kimberly Cui says she signed up for YAC because  “I just wanted to explore more about what other people in the world were facing.”

In past years, the campaign has focused on the effects of war on healthcare workers and on education. This year’s theme is cultural property.

“The destruction of cultural property’s permanent, so when it’s damaged or when it’s destroyed it has a direct impact on that particular community,” says Sarina Vij, Coordinator for the Bay Area YAC.

Vij says cultural property “is something that is of great importance to a particular community. It could be a statue; it could be a monument. “

For example, she cites the Taliban’s destruction in 2001 of two giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan that were 1600 years old.  

Some teens are surprised to learn that the Red Cross is involved in International Humanitarian Law.

Harshita Gabri says, “Initially when I heard about Red Cross I thought of it as an organization that was in charge of blood donations.”

Priyanka Supraja Balaji

“Before I knew anything about the details about Red Cross, I always thought of it as an organization that provides humanitarian aid,” says Priyanka Supraja Balaji. “I wanted to be a part of spreading that mission and really being one of the people who is helping others.”

And Rubikka Satchidanantham says, “I thought this campaign was the perfect opportunity. Not only am I able to learn more about IHL, but I’m also able to educate others.”

Janaki Rakesh said she is passionate about teaching others about IHL, because she has followed the story of Malala Yousafzai. Malala is an outspoken advocate for girls’ education who survived being shot by the Taliban, and won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17.

“I read all of Malala’s books. She’s a girl from Pakistan. Her life was destroyed by war.”

The YAC teams spread awareness about IHL through Instagram posts and Zoom game nights, where participants answer questions about war and cultural property.

Sreekrishna Gelle posted on the group’s Instagram feed about a firebombing during World War Two, “where American and British bombers basically flattened the entire city of Dresden in Germany which was a center of cultural, architectural and artistic history.”

 “I have never seen a more creative group of individuals,” says Sarina Vij. “They are very good at coming up with different ways to navigate and problem-solve. “

One team held an online scavenger hunt, sharing food, clothing, and souvenirs from other countries. Victoria Liu says that made her appreciate her own Chinese heritage – and what cultural property means to others. “It represents a lot about people and if you destroy these properties, you’re destroying peoples’ identities.”

And the work doesn’t end when the games do. “We used feedback forms and heard back from people that they want to make it more engaging,” says Shivani Ravindra. “So we’re working on improving those for the next event.”

YAC presentations are all virtual for now,  but team member Tejasvini Ramesh says that is their secret weapon.

“We’re able to spread awareness about it a lot quicker than we would through in-person events because with the power of social media we can reach lots of people from different parts of the world.”

Beyond teaching their classmates about IHL, several teens say they find the concepts comforting.

“During war, we think it’s all chaotic,” says Charisse Zou, “but I found it really fascinating how there were actually laws to protect the people and cultural property.”

“It gives me a really safe feeling,” says  Priyanka Supraja Balaji. “Things that have such a personal attachment to you like a place of worship or anything like that won’t get targeted.”

Anyone can learn about IHL and take part in the teams’ online events.  Just visit:

https://ihlinthebay.wixsite.com/ihlinthebay

https://www.redcross.org/humanityinwar/international-humanitarian-law-youth-action-campaign.html

A mother’s motivation

By John Lindner

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood for surgeries, cancer treatments, chronic illnesses or traumatic injuries. Because less than 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood or platelets, hospitals in the U.S. are very dependent on donations from those that are eligible to donate.

Elizabeth Crisafulli with her daughter, born prematurely at 28 weeks.

Every blood donor is motivated to do so for different reasons. Elizabeth Crisafulli discovered her personal motivation 22 years ago, when her daughter was born very prematurely at 28 weeks. The baby weighed just 2.5 pounds and needed an emergency blood transfusion. In addition to tapping into the blood products the hospital had on hand, some of Elizabeth’s friends donated blood. Her daughter is now a healthy 22-year-old.

When you speak with her, you get the impression that Elizabeth is on a mission. She has battled cancer twice, which temporarily postponed her ability to donate blood. Once she was cleared to do so, however, she was right back at it. She got frustrated once when she couldn’t donate because “something was too low.”

Like many of us, Elizabeth receives email notifications for blood donations which remind her to schedule her next donation. She goes to the same San Jose red Cross Blood Donation Center each time and sometimes brings her daughter along (her husband is not eligible to donate). Needles don’t bother her but she says, “I don’t watch it going in.”

Elizabeth praises the American Red Cross Blood Donor mobile app, stating that she “loves it,” adding that “it makes donating so simple.” The mobile app is extremely user friendly and helps you find local blood drives and donation centers, schedule and reschedule appointments and keep track of your donation history. “It even tells you where your blood went and how many lives it impacted,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve shared the app with my friends who have used it to donate.”

This writer was unfamiliar with the mobile app (called “Blood Donor American Red Cross” in the App Store and “Blood Donor” in Google Play). I downloaded the app after speaking with Elizabeth and have a feeling I will be donating more frequently, much like the others Elizabeth has influenced to do the same.

The impact of donating blood is huge – one donation can potentially save more than one life. Unfortunately, today the Red Cross is experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade. The blood supply is dangerously low, which has forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgeries, including organ transplants.

It’s hard to say how many lives Elizabeth Crisafulli’s donations have impacted over the past 22 years, but it’s clear she will positively affect many more in the years to come. Thank you for your life saving donations, Elizabeth!

About the author: John Lindner is a Public Affairs volunteer with the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Red Cross: National blood crisis may put patients at risk

The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Dangerously low blood inventory levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who must wait until more blood products become available. The Red Cross has issued a plea for blood and platelet donors to give now to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals as a result of the shortage. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

When there’s not enough blood

Blood recipient Kala Breder and family.

Kala Breder knows all too well how dire a blood shortage can be. In July 2020, hours after the birth of her son by emergency Cesarean section, Kala developed a complication and began hemorrhaging. As doctors fought to control her bleeding, the blood supply was exhausted at the hospital and those within a 45-mile radius. Ultimately, she was air lifted to another hospital because there wasn’t enough blood locally.

Kala credits the 58 different blood products she received with helping save her life. “Without one of those, I probably wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I needed every last unit.”

Don’t wait – make your appointment to donate 

Please schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).If there is not an immediate opportunity to donate, please make an appointment in the days and weeks ahead to ensure the Red Cross can replenish and then maintain a sufficient blood supply.

Rush in to give blood or platelets Jan. 1-31 and you’ll automatically get a chance to score an exciting Super Bowl LVI getaway in LA for you and a guest! Plus, the Red Cross will give you a shot at a home theater package and $500 e-gift card in January. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

Red Cross volunteer: “This is what we do; we go where we’re needed.” 

Dawson Springs, Kentucky was just one of the communities that was severely damaged by a series of tornadoes that swept through several states on Dec. 11. Photo by Jodi Wallace/American Red Cross

It was Dec. 11, and Jodi Wallace, a 16-year veteran Red Cross volunteer from California’s Silicon Valley chapter, was already tired when she got the call to go to Kentucky after a series of tornadoes had devastated broad swaths of that state.

Wallace, 60, had spent most of August responding to California’s Gold County fires and then moved on to assist with the hurricane response in Louisiana. After that, she had helped with the flood response in Washington state. She had been home for only a little more than a week, ready for a well-deserved break, when the call came in.

She knew the scale of the disaster meant the Red Cross would be needed more than ever, so she asked her husband what he thought. “He always tells me, ‘this is what you trained for,'” Wallace says. He’s even teased her: “Would you like me to pick a better month and schedule a disaster for you?”

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Looking back on 2021

Please join us as we say goodbye to 2021 with a look back at some of our favorite stories of the year from all of our lines of service.

Service to the Armed Forces

Lisa Ann Rohr was one of nine Red Cross SAF Mobile personnel who left the U.S. for overseas duty from August 2020 to April 2021. Lisa Ann was one of two Red Crossers initially stationed in Iraq, at the diplomatic post Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC).

She says: “My entire ‘boots on the ground’ experience providing virtual services in Emergency Communications Messaging Delivery and Service Member follow-up with my peers, to creative ‘no contact’ distribution of incoming holiday donations, gifts and personal care items, to organizing cooking classes, language classes, and cultural history classes for U.S. and Coalition military forces serving their deployment rotation at BDSC, was a dream come true!”

You can read more about Lisa’s experiences here.


Lifesaving Blood

Blood donor Jennifer Sahni credits the Red Cross for saving her life after a challenging childbirth. After delivery, Jennifer’s cesarean incision would not stop bleeding. She received two units of blood, which stabilized her. Two days later, she had to receive a second transfusion with an additional two units of blood. She was able to go home the next day.

“I am so grateful to the people who donated the blood I received,” Jennifer said. “Because of them, I was able to go home and be with my kids. You can read more about Jennifer’s story here.


Training Services

On Tuesday, March 16, two local residents were honored with American Red Cross commendations in a virtual ceremony hosted by the organization’s Central Coast Chapter.

“These two individuals exemplify the mission of the Red Cross to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies and are to be commended for their willingness to help others in distress.” – Michele Averill, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Central Coast Chapter. You can read more about Linda and Robert here.


International Services

Red Crossers and the public at large were invited to a speaker series to learn how the American Red Cross International Services team provides relief and hope in communities around the globe by reconnecting families separated by crises, helping rebuild communities devastated by disasters and working alongside health organizations to eliminated global disease. 

Featured panelists included Chris Losavio, Executive Director, Heart of the Valley Chapter American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region; Patrick Hamilton, Head of Delegation for the United States and Canada International Committee of the Red Cross; Koby J. Langley, Senior Vice President, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services American Red Cross; Christine Medeiros, Pacific Division Lead, Restoring Family Links American Red Cross. You can view a recording of the discussion here.


Disaster Services

Navy veteran Michael Ocaranza awoke earlier this year to flames engulfing his apartment. He had just enough time to grab his dog, Sparky, and race out the door as fire licked around his head.

American Red Cross volunteers and case managers, Betsy Witthohn and Cindy Jones, first contacted Mike during his hospitalization and began to put together resources for his welfare following his stay. During the recovery process, Mike says they became “like friends from the past that I never had before – it’s a good feeling all over.”

You can read more about Mike’s story here.


From all of us in Communications, Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

If you have a story lead for any one of our writers, please email us at NCCRPublicAffairs@redcross.org.

“I’m here to help, and I care.”

Margot Simpson, Alameda County Volunteer of the Year

By Marcia Antipa

Margot during the Lake County fires of 2015

Margot Simpson has responded to hundreds of house and apartment fires in more than a dozen years as a Red Cross volunteer. One of those Disaster Action Team (DAT) calls happened on a summer day at a 12-unit apartment building in Oakland.

“The residents were all standing outside; they were not all friendly with each other, so it was kind of a tense situation.”

Margot acted quickly, rallying her Red Cross trainees to gather information and hand out comfort kits filled with toiletries.

“It got interesting because two of the residents almost came to blows arguing out in front of the building. I had to step up to them and say ‘Look, we’ll leave and nobody gets help if you two don’t stop.’ So they did.”

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