Mahoning Valley Native Works with Red Cross to Help Migrants
By: Anmol Nigam, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer
When she thinks back to last October, Mahoning Valley native Jenelle Eli remembers working aboard the Responder. She remembers the Mediterranean Sea, gently rocking against the hull of the ship. She remembers looking through inky blackness of the night. And through that shroud of darkness, she remembers the hundreds of migrants trying to escape their own deaths.
Eli is the International Communications Director for the American Red Cross. Last October, she shared her experiences aboard the Responder on a Red Cross blog. The Responder is a search and rescue vessel that operates to provide lifesaving services to those adrift in the Mediterranean Sea. Packed into unstable rafts, these migrants often undertake the perilous journey to cross the sea with the hope that it will have a safe ending.
Eli warns of the risks that migrants face. “If boats weren’t out there to rescue people,” Eli said, “there’s no doubt that they would die at sea.”
After helping migrants reach safety, Eli works to improve their lives. However, despite all the travelling her work entails, “Ohio will always be my home,” she explains. Throughout her journeys, she remembers her beginnings in Masury, Ohio — a small community in Trumbull County, where neighbors are friends and strangers are friendly.
When she was a student attending Ohio University, she found her passion for helping refugees. During her college career, she volunteered with international students, learning of the hardships they faced.
“Some of my friends’ families…were in danger every day,” Eli said. “They weren’t sure if they’d have a home to return to once their degrees were finished—or if they’d even be safe back home.”
Years later, she ended up on the Responder. But on those late nights aboard, when the waves rocked the ship and the winds fell silent, Eli remembered back to Ohio, and she missed it. She missed the forests and nature. And she missed her friends and family.
“I miss being in the presence of my mom and dad every single day,” Eli said. When she’s travelling abroad, she misses the simple things, such as tap water or pierogi and pepperoni rolls.
Eli understands how overwhelming this is for those who want to help. People should not feel helpless when they hear about the migration crisis, Eli said. “Refugees from all over the world have settled in Cleveland, Akron, and Erie, PA. Anyone who wants to help can do so by welcoming refugees and volunteering with families right here in the USA.”