Local Volunteer Has International Ties


Editor’s note:  This post coincides with with International Women’s Day.  Ifat Gazia is a new Red Cross volunteer based in Wooster, Ohio, after being born and raised in the conflict zone in Kashmir. She is a researcher who reports on the human rights issues in her native land.

Photo provided by Ifat Gazia

Born and brought up in the largest militarized zone on earth, I grew up listening to stories of not just violence and killings but also of strength, courage and empathy. That is how we as Kashmiris were very empathetic towards each other and to the rest of the world, that usually visited us as tourists.

Kashmir is known for its conflict, and in spite of all the war and suffering the people have to go through on a daily basis, it is also known for its warm hospitality. Being occupied, killed, disappeared, raped, orphaned and tortured by the foreign powers did not leave us bitter and weak. Instead, it increased our strength and intellect. Made us realise that all we have is us and we need to stand up for each other time and again.

There has been a tradition of oral memory deeply rooted in our culture. I grew up hearing stories from my elders and later on started telling the same. Alongside, I understood the value of human empathy at a very young age. I also learned the will to defend our rights and the power to fight for the same.

The storyteller in me pushed me to pursue journalism, which I eventually realised wasn’t something I was really happy in doing. The reason was simple, reporting wasn’t enough. I did write stories but that was it. I didn’t see the impact. And just writing the stories wasn’t helping anyone anymore. People I interviewed for my stories tied their hopes to me and it wasn’t their fault but I did consider it my fault somehow for not delivering up to their expectations. That is when I changed my course of work and studied more about Human Rights, International Political Communication, Development, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Media so that I can get into an organisation which actually works for making lives of common people better.

I recently moved to the USA for further education and got to observe the amazing work of American Red Cross very closely. The type of empathy and care the staff and volunteers have for their communities is really uplifting. Thousands of volunteers respond to emergencies and disasters every year, keeping their personal priorities aside. This is why I decided to volunteer for Red Cross and try to help with any skills I have got while I am here.

March is Red Cross Month-Honoring Heroes Everywhere

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross volunteer

“Hero” is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Ideally, that should describe all of us.

In this age of political and social conflict, one thing remains clear. In times of need, people in this country rally together to help one another; and the American Red Cross has been recognized for years as the organization that maximizes their efforts.

Every 8 minutes, we help someone in need

Last year, thanks to Red Cross training:

  • 7 million people received CPR and first aid training nationally.
  • 7 million relief items were distributed to victims of countless disasters
  • Shelters provided 658,000 overnight stays for victims of hurricanes, floods, fires, and power outages.
  • Here in Northeast Ohio, we responded to approximately 1,000 fires and other incidents.
  • About $800,000 of financial assistance was provided to those NEO residents.
  • Almost 77,000 military families were connected with their service person through Red Cross emergency communication services.
  • 7 million people donated blood or platelets that saved lives in 2,600 hospitals.
  • More than 15,000 smoke alarms were installed in homes in Northeast Ohio by Red Cross and other area volunteers and partners.

Volunteer Vernita Whittenburg holds a mayoral proclamation, signed by Frank Jackson, Mayor of Cleveland.  Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Back in 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the impact of our organization and declared March as official American Red Cross Month. That tradition has continued through today and recognizes the efforts of all the volunteers that enable it to complete its mission. Approximately 96-percent of the work the Red Cross accomplishes is done by local volunteers in communities across this nation.

Release your inner hero

If you have time, volunteer. If you already volunteer, suggest a friend join with you. If your time is limited, take a class or donate blood. Cash donations are always welcome as well, and help fund the life-saving activities Red Cross provides.

Get involved – then pat yourself on the back – you’re a hero!

We Can Respond – Only With Your Help

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross Volunteer

When fires break out and rivers breach their banks, the Red Cross responds.  Such was the case this past weekend.

On Cleveland’s east side, a fire broke out in a six-story CMHA apartment building, Saturday 2/24.  By the time the fire was extinguished, 23 units were affected with light to heavy smoke damage, making the units unlivable.

Our Cleveland Disaster Action Team responded, issuing the 25 residents with debit cards totaling almost $9,000 to cover their immediate lodging needs and miscellaneous other expenses.

Going forward, each of those families will be contacted by caseworkers from the Cleveland office, offering additional assistance in recovering from the fire.

At the same time, in southern Ohio, the request for assistance came as the Ohio River crested at more than 60 feet Sunday night, flooding parts of the Tri-State area in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

In New Richmond, Ohio, if the water reached 59 feet, it would be at many homes door steps. More than that, and the water would flood inside.

The Red Cross anticipated the flooding and responded to the community’s needs by setting up shelters for the affected families. But, they needed additional assistance to properly staff the shelters.


Red Cross shelter established at the Alexandria Community Center in Indiana 

Fortunately, the Northeast Ohio Region has many trained staff and volunteers that were able to drop everything and head for southern Ohio to assist. Two dozen people were assigned to the job, including five volunteers who had taken specialized training for just such an occurrence.


This photo, taken near East Liverpool, Ohio, shows the Ohio River Monday afternoon.  Photo Credit:  Karen Conklin/American Red Cross

Since the major hurricanes hit last year, a number of people have responded and taken training to assist in mass care sheltering opportunities. But, we could always use more, as spring flooding is not limited to the Ohio River.

Please consider volunteering and receiving free Red Cross training for disaster response. Help is always needed in a variety of specialties from sheltering to feeding, and from communications and IT to logistics.  We can only respond, however, if we have sufficient volunteers that are properly trained in disaster services.

To learn about all the opportunities to be of assistance, please visit the Red Cross volunteer page. Opportunities exist for young adults, seniors and everyone in-between.


The ABCs of Donating A, B, A/B and O

What All Donors Need To Know Before Rolling Up Their Sleeves

By Christy Peters, External Communications Manager, Biomedical Services

The need for lifesaving blood and platelets is constant. In fact, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion. And your contribution is important for a stable and reliable blood supply. But before you schedule your appointment to donate blood, here is information to ensure you’re prepared for a successful donation.

To donate blood, you must be:

  • At least 17 years-old in most states, or 16 years-old with parental consent if allowed by state law (such as Ohio).
  • You must weigh at least 110 pounds
  • You must be in good general health and feeling well on the day of your donation.

Prior to your blood donation, make sure you drink plenty of water and eat a healthy meal. When you come to give, you will also be asked to show a donor card, driver’s license, or other form(s) of ID.

The entire blood donation process takes about an hour from start to finish. It consists of :

  • Registration
  • A mini-physical
  • The actual donation
  • Refreshments!

The actual blood donation takes about 8-10 minutes and you will donate one pint of blood (the average person has 10-12 pints). Your one pint consists of three components, red blood cells, platelets and plasma and each one can be given to a different patient based on their need. With each blood donation you have the potential to help save up to three lives!

Join the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross and make an appointment now to give blood. Download the free Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Work of Her Hands Comes from Her Heart

Volunteer Caseworker Also Crochets for Victims of Disaster

By Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

“I don’t knit.  I crochet.”

Stephanie Farley, a retired school teacher and long-time Red Cross volunteer, says she found a bag of yarn in her closet several years ago and started stitching.

“I couldn’t remember why I bought it, what I was going to make with it, and I had a hat pattern, so I made a hat.”


Since then, Stephanie has stitched an untold number of hats that have been given to residents in Northeast Ohio who experience disasters like home fires.  Each time Stephanie brings a new batch of hand-stitched hats, they are distributed by Disaster Action Team members who respond to home fires.

“The first hat anyone took was bright red,” Stephanie said. “He was so excited, he was waving it around.”

Stephanie says she also received a thank you note from the recipient of one of her hats.

She’ll be crocheting for the foreseeable future, after making a request for yarn on the website nextdoor.com, a private social network for neighbors.  “I got tons of yarn.  I’m good for a year or two.”


You don’t have to knit, or crochet to volunteer for the Red Cross.  Your heart just has to be in the same place as Stephanie’s.  Visit redcross.org/neo and click “Volunteer” to explore the many ways you, too, can help others.

The Aches, the Chills, the Pail Next to the Couch

Understanding the flu can help you protect yourself and your family

By Brad Galvan, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer

Nothing can take a healthy person (or a family) down quicker than the flu. This year, hospitals have been filling up with patients who are suffering from the symptoms of the flu. The dreaded influenza (flu) bug is described by the Center for Disease Control as a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It’s primarily spread when people cough, sneeze or talk. We are all at risk, but children and the elderly are impacted the most.

Do your part to remain healthy and to keep others safe

Building Resilient Communities in Colombia January 2014

Jana Sweeny
receives her annual flu shot at a
mobile health brigade in La
Guajira, Colombia         Photo credit: Roberto Brito de la Cuesta/American Red Cross 


Physicians recommend the flu shot for everyone over six months old. Ideally, the vaccination is done prior to ‘flu season,’ but it’s never too late. The vaccination is meant to protect you from the common strains of influenza. Although encouraged (and sometimes required by some workplaces, including hospitals), it’s not perfect. So what else can you do?

Debra Fast, DO, an MDVIP-affiliated internist who practices in Wooster, Ohio, says, “Aside from the annual vaccine, the most important way to prevent flu is frequent hand washing with soap and water especially prior to eating and avoidance of hand shaking. Most studies regarding taking vitamins like high dose Vitamin C for prevention of colds and flu show no benefit. Instead, we know that eating well-balanced meals and sleeping seven to eight hours a night is a great way to rejuvenate and boost your immune system.”

You unfortunately caught it – what should you do?

If you begin to feel the symptoms of the flu, it’s important to see a healthcare provider. Some antiviral drugs can help shorten the duration and reduce the severity of the symptoms. You should also do your best to stay away from others, drink plenty of liquids and rest. Once you begin to feel better, replace toothbrushes and use disinfectant sprays on everyday objects such as cell phones, remotes, door knobs, etc., that you come into contact with.

You’ve avoided the flu. Hooray! How can you help those that aren’t so lucky?

This year’s flu has caused an influx of patients to be admitted to hospitals. Those patients can contract additional complications and could need the gift of your blood – consider donating to the American Red Cross. https://www.redcrossblood.org/



Celebrating a Red Cross Pioneer During Black History Month

By Christie Peters, External Communications Manager, Biomedical Services


During Black History Month this February, the Red Cross celebrates the legacy of blood-banking pioneer Dr. Charles Drew.  Dr. Drew was an African-American surgeon who became the medical director of the first Red Cross blood bank in 1941. Drew’s research about the storage and shipment of blood plasma proved that blood could be stored for transfusions. During World War II, at the military’s request, Drew helped the Red Cross initiate a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces.

Donors of all blood types and ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to give to help ensure blood and platelet donations reflect the diversity of the patients who rely on them. Certain blood types are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. Red blood cells carry markers called antigens on their surface that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens, and some are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. Blood must be matched very closely for patients with rare blood types or those who need repeated transfusions. Patients are less likely to have complications from blood donated by someone of a similar ethnicity.

  • Every day, volunteer blood and platelet donors across the country are needed to help save lives. The Red Cross must collect more than 13,000 blood and platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Eligible donors are urged to make an appointment to give now by using the Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).