Against The Wind

Hi, guys, my name is Alex, and my friend Becky asked me to contribute a few words of my experiences in the International Red Cross. Being in my fifties now I am kind of a veteran in the IRC and know Becky since she first volunteered and am happy to say that what she is doing with this blog is great and I think it will get many people interested in becoming active for a cause that we care both about.

hurricane Katrina in 2005If I have to choose one memory from the Red Cross from all the years I have been active, it would have to be the work we did following the devastating hurricane Katrina in 2005. I mean, the memories of that disaster are so vivid, even after twelve years now I get the images of the destruction in my dreams. The horrible thing took 1800 lives and destroyed 350.000 homes.

The numbers are staggering! I was one of more than 245.000 Red Cross personnel working to help bring some relief. And still, there just wasn’t enough of us.

Get organized

We had just come into the city limits of New Orleans a few days after the worst of the storm. There were a lot of desperate people out there waiting for someone to help. We started organizing a medical and supply center in an old post office building which survived the winds and could be cleared out quick. From centers like that the Red Cross would serve 68 million meals and snacks before the relief effort was over.

The local people were in bad shape but we were taken by surprise when we saw a group approaching us, in a calm confident fashion. There were about 12 people, and only one spoke for all of them. His name was Richard Phillips and he was a retired navy officer. He offered to help with his group, who turned out to be his neighbors that, together with him had a survival and emergency medical aid club every week where they learned from him the basic but essential skills of helping in a medical emergency.

Be prepared

I remember thinking how this guy in a normal situation would be considered silly for going through the trouble of organizing himself and his neighbors and teaching things that you wouldn’t normally need. But when the unthinkable happens it could mean the difference between life or death. While they were helping us out in the shelter I got to talk to Mr. Phillips for a bit. He said he knew many people thought he was funny with his preparations and training neighbors but he thinks of himself as a rational man and he knew that this part of the US is vulnerable to hurricanes and that they could make serious problems for him and his community.

Help-peopleHe had some skills so he thought it was his duty to pass them to others who might benefit. And so he did and thank goodness too because he and his friends helped us out a lot during those incredibly hard weeks to come.

So if you can learn something the Red Cross could use, please do and help us, we can always use it.