Friday, November 15, 2013

Local Volunteer on International Assignment

Cristina Hammond, a 20-year volunteer from the Upper Valley, is currently on a 5 week Red Cross deployment in Vietnam.  This is her 9th overseas deployment to 7 different countries.  Cristina is in Vietnam to assist relief and recovery activities in the wake two other recent typhoons.  After striking the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan was steaming toward Vietnam.  Cristina set her assignment aside and headed into the region of Vietnam expected to be most affected, preparing to assist in an anticipated recovery process. Here is Cristina’s journal entry as the typhoon approach, as well as a brief postscript.  It exemplifies the dedication and compassion shown by our volunteer corps.

November 8, 2013  -- The Night Train to Hue
As I boarded the train last night to Hue, an old slogan flashed through my mind:  Do something every day that scares you.  Well, I did.  I am one who is so terrified of things like roller coasters, that I can’t even watch others (especially my own children) stand in line for them.  And I always duck out of line before getting to the front.  Yet, when a disaster strikes, I am the first on the ride to go help assist.  In this case, it was a night train from Ha Tinh, Vietnam to Hue, Vietnam.  Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel fear.  I just didn’t step out of line.
As word came in of the approaching Typhoon, my Vietnamese co-worker Linh and I spoke to our boss in Hanoi.  With the typhoon approaching, planned activities for our cash grant program had been cancelled so Michael gave us options:  1) return to Hanoi until we can restart our activities, or 2) move south into the path of the storm and help the Viet Nam Red Cross (VNRC) in these Provinces prepare and respond. One thing disaster response teaches you is to be flexible.  Another is to put humanity first.  Of course, always we are to put our own safety as a priority, but after that, do I want to be safe outside the affected area if I believe I can not only be safe but also be useful within?
Arriving in Hue, Linh and I soon saw the first visible signs of storm preparation:  A few young men climbing a tree to cut it down so that it won’t be blown over.  Throughout the day, we see many more trees being trimmed and people taking down street ornaments, removing loose sheet metal, and closing up shops.  For our afternoon, I did my laundry in the tub and checked my supplies while watching CNN report on the destruction just starting to be assessed in the Philippines.  The hotel staff came in to tape the windows.
Later in the afternoon, we had a meeting with the Vice Chair of the Provincial Chapter of the Viet Nam Red Cross (VNRC).  He explained the evacuations and other preparedness activities underway.  Over 100,000 evacuated in this province with a total of 600,000 in evacuation centers along the Central coast. We had an excellent conversation about the good work being done and a review of past typhoons and floods.  Lessons have been learned; new procedures to release water and who and when to evacuate are in place.  It feels a little surreal to be at the hotel now and waiting for the storm.  But that is part of preparedness.  Expect (and prepare for) the worst, hope for the best, and flexibly deal with whatever the day’s reality throws at you.
So here I am.  Not in line – nor on the train – just in the path of the eye of the hurricane.
Thankfully, Haiyan veered sharply north and skittered along up the coast of the Central Provinces.  The intensity reduced to a weaker category 1 tropical typhoon as landfall occurred in the Northeast.  As the path changed, the alerts went out and another 200,000 people evacuated in the northeastern province coastal areas.  The total of over 800,000 evacuees was the greatest Viet Nam had ever done before.  We experienced heavy rains and seas with high winds but, luckily, not the kind of devastation many feared. It was still a significant storm event with 10 dead and more than 50 injured along with millions of dollars of damage to homes, agriculture and aquaculture.
With that storm past, the 5th in the last 7 weeks, I went back to the work I came here to do:  assist the IFRC and VNRC with relief and recovery activities associated with Typhoons Wutip and Nari.  These typhoons caused significant damages (over $700 million US in economic loss) to many coastal communities in 9 Central Provinces (nine provinces of Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai) destroying homes and wiping out livelihoods.  The American Red Cross deployed me here as a technical advisor to support the distribution of household items and cash grants to assist some of the most vulnerable (elderly, disabled, single-headed households, etc.) who had been severely affected by the typhoons and did not have sufficient resources or coping capacity to recover on their own.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Two Vermont Women Honored for WWII Service with Red Cross

Veterans Day Weekend Poignant Time to Acknowledge Service to Red Cross and Country

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE… (Castleton and Putney, Vermont – November 8, 2013) This Sunday, November 10th, the Red Cross will honor two local World War II era Red Cross workers who gave so much for their country; one giving their life. Veterans Day seems the appropriate time to pay tribute to their war-time service. Events in Castleton, VT and Putney, VT will provide the backdrop for Red Cross leadership to re-affirm its commitment to the Armed Forces and those that support the organization’s efforts to serve the men and women in uniform.

Maxine Loomis, who was born and raised in Putney, Vermont, received training as a nurse at a Springfield, MA hospital. At age 26, she volunteered to be an American Red Cross nurse and to serve overseas at a hospital in London, England. The year was 1941 and war raged in Europe. While the United States had not yet entered the war, the American Red Cross headed to Europe in support of the organization’s humanitarian mission. Maxine’s commitment and passion for her work was cut short when, in late June 1941, aboard a ship bound for England, her life was lost as a result of a German submarine attack.
Maxine Loomis was one of six with the Red Cross, one house mother and five nurses, who lost their lives when the SS Maasdam was torpedoed. To honor her service, the American Red Cross gave the family a plaque that read: 

To Maxine C. Loomis
In honor of
her courage and resolution
in crossing the sea to serve
with the American Red Cross
Harvard field hospital unit
1915 – 1941

This plaque was affixed to a grave stone in the family plot in Westminster, Vermont. In 2011, that plaque was inexplicably stolen. Maxine’s surviving sister-in-law, Marilyn Loomis recently reached out to the Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross. To ensure that the memory of Maxine and the bravery and compassion she exemplified are not forgotten, the Red Cross has had made a new plaque, inscribed with the same message as the original. On Sunday, as part of a 2:00 p.m. Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park at the Town Hall in Putney, VT, this new plaque will be presented to the Loomis family and soon will be affixed to Maxine’s grave stone.

If there are questions about other facets to the program scheduled for 2pm Sunday at Veterans Memorial Park at the Town Hall of Putney, contact Laurel Ellis of the Putney Veterans Memorial Committee at 802-387-4489.

The commitment and dedication of Marjorie Burditt Anderson of Castleton, Vermont will also be honored this Sunday as part of special service at the Federated Church of Castleton (504 Main Street), which is slated to begin at 11:00 a.m.. Mrs. Anderson is still an active member of that church and will be on hand to receive a pin and certificate honoring her World War II service with the American Red Cross.  

Marjorie’s tenure with the Red Cross involved service both at home and abroad, including that as a Red Cross Service Club Director assigned to Camp Herbert Tareton near LeHavre, France. Upon her return to the states, she worked for the Red Cross at the VA hospital in White River Jct., buoying the spirits of wounded soldiers. Both abroad and at home, she helped provide relief and a piece of “home” for America’s soldiers. At times this was simply setting time aside to play a game of cards, while at other times it meant sitting down with a wounded soldier and helping to write a difficult letter home.

The American Red Cross honors those who served overseas through the “Our Legacy Continues” project and will present Mrs. Anderson with a pin and certificate this Sunday. In addition, Mrs. Anderson is set to receive a copy of Senate Resolution 471, provided by Senator Patrick Leahy. The U.S. Senate Resolution is an acknowledgment of the work of Red Cross Clubmobile women. It was the Clubmobiles that delivered hot coffee and, as the Resolution says, “a vital connection to home to thousands of servicemen . . . .” While Mrs. Anderson was not a Clubmobiler, those women were her close friends and S. Res. 471 reflects on all of the women who “went to war” in support of our military during World War II.

For further information Sunday’s event (11 a.m.) and the plans of the Federated Church of Castleton to recognize Mrs. Anderson, veterans and others who give to their community and country, contact Rob Noble at 802-558-2293. Noble is the Church’s minister.