Friday, January 30, 2015

Here's Why You Should Care About a 150-year-old Set of Rules

by Warren Roh, Volunteer Photographer/Storyteller
Most of us have heard of the Geneva Convention. These two words seem to be spoken at least once during every war movie seen in theaters or on TV. I am a U.S. Navy combat veteran. So, when I was asked to attend and photograph the Born on the Battlefield training session at the Red Cross in Denver, I jumped at the chance. The instructor for the training was Tim Bothe. Tim is the International Services Manager for the Colorado & Wyoming Red Cross Region.

To me, the Geneva Convention was a treaty, signed by the U.S. and other countries that spelled out how prisoners of war were to be treated. I didnt know that the Geneva Convention is actually the culmination of four conventions or that it spawned the Red Cross.

Henri Dunant
At this training, we learned that a Swiss activist named Henri Dunant, upon visiting the appalling conditions and horrible treatment of wounded soldiers in the battle of Solferino Italy in 1859, proposed that two significant events take place. Those two events were: 1) that a permanent relief agency for humanitarian aid in times of war be formed, and 2) that a treaty to recognize the neutrality of that relief agency be internationally ratified.

The relief agency became the International Red Cross, based in Geneva, Switzerland. The government treaty became the first Geneva Convention, ratified in 1864. Those two events changed the face of war and the humanitarian treatment of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians ever since.

The Geneva Conventions and their importance in times of war and the humanitarian services of the Red Cross, not only on the battlefield, but in every-day peacetime life, are legendary. This history, in my estimation, should be taught in every high school.

After the training was over, I asked several of the attendees, “did you find this training interesting or helpful? Everyone I spoke with found the training helpful and they gave the class high praise.

Tim Bothe teaches "Born on the Battlefield."
When I came home after class, I asked my two daughters, one a high school senior and one a college sophomore, if they new what the Geneva Convention was. My high school senior said: “What’s that?” I then asked her if she knew who the Red Cross was. She said, “They make Band-Aids, don’t they?" I asked my other daughter, who is a Photojournalism major at Colorado State University, if she had ever heard of the Geneva Convention. She said that she had, but she didn't know anything about it. I then asked her about the Red Cross. She said, “I think they help people, but I’m not sure what all they do.”

My elder daughter then asked if she could read my synopsis of the training from my class notes below. She said, “Wow dad, that’s really cool; did you know any of that before you took the class?” I told her that I was taken aback by how much I didn't know.

My college-aged daughter goes to school in Ft. Collins and has since contacted the Red Cross chapter in Northern Colorado. She has started the process to become a Red Cross Volunteer. My wife and high school senior now want to learn more as well.  I am personally going to ask to speak to my American Legion Post on this subject.

I’d say this class has an effect on my entire family. My hope is that more American families can learn about these important international laws and how they are still relevant today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Jessica Murison, Red Cross Volunteer

Today marks a significant day in history, wherein detainees were liberated from Auschwitz, the deadliest concentration camp during World War II.  It is estimated that over 1.1 million people died in the camp between 1940 and 1945. Many of the persons who survived Auschwitz have gathered at the site to commemorate the liberation they experienced 70 years ago.  Almost all of today’s survivors were children at the time of detention.  This year’s commencement is significant, in that this marks one of the last times when a large number of the elderly survivors from Auschwitz will gather together to acknowledge and remember Auschwitz, and advocate against anti-Semitism. 

Here in the U.S., the American Red Cross continues to play a role in helping those who were affected by the genocide of the Holocaust.  Through the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, survivors are able seek information about family members they had been separated from during World War II.   

Many of those who survived the horrors of the Holocaust were not able to track down their loved ones after the war, and some even assumed that they were the only survivors (See Saul’s story here).  Years later, the Red Cross can help research those lost family members and seek to unveil their stories – and in some cases, even reunite family members. Restoring Family Links provides a free service to reconnect those who were disconnected, and to research as to what happened during the time of war. 

Over the years, Red Cross has provided several people the solace of finally knowing what occurred, and has even been able to reconnect some survivors with their missing relatives.  Although many of those who lived through the Holocaust are no longer with us, Red Cross continues to solve the mysteries for those family members, and aims to complete their stories.  

To find out more about how you can help families separated by war, visit the Red Cross Restoring Family Links website at

Friday, January 23, 2015

How the Red Cross Focuses on Human Needs: Humanitarian Services and Migration

By Cassie Schoon, Volunteer Writer

I thought about treading lightly with this topic. There are few more politically divisive issues than that of migration. But this blog -- and the upcoming Red Cross Lunch and Learn that it previews -- isn’t about politics. It’s not about the Red Cross taking a side or promoting immigration policy, because the Red Cross is a neutral organization; neutrality is written into the guiding values of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement.

What matters to the Red Cross across the globe – and to Red Cross workers like Jon Dillon, a caseworker and outreach associate with the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program – is alleviating human suffering. For Dillon, who will host a special edition of the International Services Lunch and Learn event on Wednesday, helping migrants reconnect with displaced loved ones is a mission that transcends politics.

“First and foremost, we are a humanitarian organization that is there to serve the basic needs of human beings,” Dillon said. “I have a coworker who says it perfectly: there are five needs that people have in times of crisis, and those are food, water, shelter, access to medical services and family. And especially when you have family, access to the other four becomes a lot easier.”

Over the past several years, the International Committee of the Red Cross (the ICRC) has begun to look more closely at the humanitarian needs of migrant populations on a global scale. More recently, the American Red Cross began to examine the needs of migrants within the United States. After research among migrant populations in various American border cities exposed a specific need for RFL services, the Red Cross began to work closely with organizations with established relationships among migrant populations to address these family contact needs.

During the influx of unaccompanied children into the U.S. last summer, the Red Cross assisted detained minor immigrants in contacting family members both within the United States and in their home countries. The Red Cross provides these services to migrants as part of the organization’s commitment to universal humanitarian principles. For his part, Dillon sees the work of reconnecting migrants with displaced family members as the fulfillment of an essential humanitarian need.

“Having a loss of contact creates a lot of uncertainty, both for migrants and the family they’re trying to contact,” Dillon said.

Dillon said that providing these services also helps the Red Cross to build trust within a community that may need help from the Red Cross in the future.

“By providing these calls, we’ll also build more trust with the migrant communities, so when they are in U.S. communities and have other family contact needs, say, if a disaster happens in Mexico or Chile and they can’t get a hold of family, they will feel comfortable coming to the Red Cross for those services.”

Dillon said he hopes his presentation will help people understand the universality of the human need among all populations for family contact and security.

“Migrants are human beings, just like everyone else, and they have those basic needs,” Dillon said. “Helping migrants is very much a part of the mission of the Red Cross.”

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Jan. 28, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by noon Tuesday, Jan. 27, by visiting Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe .

Monday, January 19, 2015

What did you do on 2015 MLK Day of Service?

By Bill Fortune/American Red Cross
Photo by Curtis Lovett/American Red Cross

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Life’s most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Volunteer Warren Roh (R) shows a smoke alarm to
9 month old Reagen Landiss in Colorado Springs.
On MLK Day, Americans across the country come together for a day of service, picking up the baton handed to us by past generations and carrying forward their efforts.  That is what happened in Colorado Springs on MLK Day as Red Cross volunteers joined with cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy to install smoke alarms.

Four teams spread out across the area on a cool morning armed with smoke alarms and headed to Woodland Park, Black Forest and Peyton, as well as, several locations in Colorado Springs. The teams installed smoke alarms in 14 homes that had requested alarms based on a previous canvassing effort. Each home received 3 smoke alarms. They also received a home fire inspection and educational material to help them be better prepared for home fires and other emergencies.

 “This is a blessing,” said Brittany Landess who is the mother of three small children. “I feel so much better knowing that my children are just a little safer.” As the team was about to leave the Landess home five year old Branson stopped one of the Red Cross installers to make sure they had included an alarm for his baby brother.  “I want him to be safe, too,” he said.

The smoke alarm installations were part of the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign that is a 5-year effort to reduce fatalities caused by home fires by twenty-five percent over the next five years. In just the past few months, the Red Cross has already reached more than 36,000 people by installing more than 21,000 smoke alarms. Recent studies suggest that by having a working smoke alarm in your home you can improve your chance of survival by 50 percent.

Home fires occur with startling regularity in America and the American Red Cross responds to each one with the goal of alleviating the suffering brought on by a home fire. Disaster volunteers work closely with the families that have been displaced to help them with immediate needs like clothing, food and shelter. They also work to provide emotional and medical support if needed.

To find out more about home fire safety and the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign visit