Story and Photos by Michele Maki, American Red Cross
“I love what I do…to make a difference in someone’s life.”
This sentiment is shared among most American Red Cross Volunteers.
In fact, many volunteers consider themselves part of one big Red Cross family, a notion that played out in real life when 33 men and women from Cruz Roja Mexicana came to assist in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort in Dallas, Texas.
Carlos Arturo Castillo Bermundez, a firefighter from Tijuana, Mexico, shared why he’d joined Cruz Roja. “Making a difference is important to me, and in my work I see it, first hand. The humanitarian principles we share, no matter (the) country, make me proud to be a part of the Red Cross.”
“We have a long-standing relationship with Cruz Roja.” explained Amanda Nieman, Program Officer for International Services for the American Red Cross. “These are highly -trained professionals who have assisted our country in disaster relief efforts for years, such as Superstorm Sandy, the flooding in Baton Rouge last year and now Hurricane Harvey.”
Such amicable relations between the United States and Mexico Red Cross societies are not unique to just these countries; the Red Cross has a history of traversing international borders to offer assistance whenever needed. When disaster strikes, the Red Cross from neighboring countries offer aid and assistance; during calmer times, international Red Cross volunteers and team members visit other organizations and chapters, building understanding, sharing ideas, and strengthening the mission and values upon which the Red Cross was founded.
For the American Red Cross in Dallas, this relationship was in effect following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. The evacuation of tens of thousands of people, many unable to speak English, had made bi-lingual volunteers a rare and essential resource. Within minutes of their arrival at a Dallas shelter, the Cruz Roja team had settled in alongside the shelter residents; smiles blossomed all around as both evacuees and Cruz Roja team members shared their experiences. For Spanish-speaking evacuees, the Mexican team’s presence was a welcome one.
“It’s wonderful to know that south (of the border), they really care about us.” Fernando Campos, a shelter resident, shared. “I’m thankful they’re here.”
Campos’ family escaped the flood waters from of Angletown, Texas, with little else aside from the clothes on their back. They were especially touched that the Cruz Roja team volunteered to come to the United States to help evacuees who were otherwise strangers.
But there are no strangers in the eyes of Cruz Roja Mexicana, or the American Red Cross. There is only “family.”