by David Moore, Volunteer Blog Writer, American Red Cross New Hampshire
At first blush, you might think that the people working in the Red Cross International Services program here in New Hampshire shouldn’t have very much to do. After all, we’re a New England state with deep Yankee roots and a granite hard sense of community. When I was growing up in New Hampshire, my community looked much like I did. I never had much call to think about things like diversity, or to wonder what problems people from other countries might have assimilating to a new life in a new land.
Today, however, one in 20 of us living here in New Hampshire was born in a foreign country, according to 2011 US Census Bureau statistics, which means that there were some 74,000 immigrants living in New Hampshire then, and even more have come to live in our state. And as the face of the state’s population evolves, the American Red Cross International Services programs have evolved with it, today offering a variety of services to immigrants including a program to reconnect with overseas relatives, international humanitarian law support, and an initiative to promote measles and rubella inoculations.
“There is a common perception that there would not be much of a need for an international services department in New Hampshire, but, in fact, it is very much the opposite,” said Sarah Romac, International Services Program Lead for the New Hampshire Region. “This year we have put a great deal of effort into developing the International Services Department in NH.”
Red Cross International Services
When most people think about American Red Cross International Services, they envision groups of individuals being deployed overseas to help with disasters. While response to international disasters is coordinated at the nation level, the New Hampshire Red Cross chapter focuses its services on reaching out to the international/intercultural communities within NH.
New Hampshire International Services administers three national Red Cross immigrant assistance programs (RFL, IHL and Measles/Rubella) and works with outside groups to promote other services that can be adjusted to community needs. The three national programs include: Restoring Family Links (RFL), International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Measles&Rubella Initiative.
Restore Family Links
The Restoring Family Links program helps families locate missing relatives by working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations in nearly every country around the world. Annually, the American Red Cross assists more than 5,000 families trying to reconnect with their loved ones in the U.S. and around the world.
Here in New Hampshire, the International Services team works with immigrant and refugee programs around the state to both get the word out to immigrant populations that this service is available, and to educate people on how to initiate the process.
“Our goal is to inform individuals who were separated by civil unrest or disasters in the past and need assistance contacting their loved one,” Romac said. “Another goal is to make sure we have an efficient communication and network system in place for when international disasters happen, such as with Typhoon Haiyan, which will allow us to respond quickly to current needs”
If you or someone you know has lost contact due to the recent disaster in country name and is unable to communicate with family members by any other means please call the New Hampshire American Red Cross regional office at 603-225-6697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information regarding this service please visit http://www.redcross.org/familylinks
Assisting internationally during times of crisis
Measles and Rubella Initiative
International Humanitarian Law
The American Red Cross has a long tradition of supporting the implementation of international humanitarian law and raising awareness of the legal limits in war. Today, the International Humanitarian Law initiative is a way for the organization to continue its historic mission working to strength the rule of law and alleviating the suffering of victims of disasters and armed conflict wherever they may be found. This includes the refugee population of New Hampshire.
Measles & Rubella Initiative
Launched in 2001 by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization, the Measles & Rubella Initiative has successfully inoculated more than 1.1 billion children worldwide. Here in New Hampshire, the International Services team works to identify and educate refugee and immigrant populations about this initiative.
While the Restore Family Links program is up and running in the state, the New Hampshire team still is trying to developing volunteer capacity to take on all these programs and services. We would like to see the International Humanitarian Lawprogram be co-coordinated with the youth department, and the Measles & Rubella Initiative to have its own group coordinator who can focus on fundraising and developing outreach education for the initiative. So … if anybody out there fits the bill, you can’t choose a more rewarding way to share your enthusiasm and expertise.
Here in New Hampshire
Over the past year, the New Hampshire chapter has been working hard to identify both individuals and service agencies working with immigrant populations and educating these organizations about Red Cross services, education, and safety programs. Their work includes:
Community Outreach and Partnerships
- We have been working to connect with organizations and groups throughout NH. This involves gathering information on who the intercultural and foreign born individuals, groups, and organizations are and where they reside throughout the state.
- We reach out to organizations, groups, and individuals to build relationships through which we can share services and information about community needs.
- We inform other organizations about what the Red Cross does in general and they can disseminate this information to their constituents.
Organizations that we have developed partnerships with include:
- The International Institute of New England
- Organization for Immigrant and Refugee Success
- State Office of Minority and Refugee Affairs
- Lutheran Social Services of New England
- New American Africans and many others
“Doing outreach has helped us create a contact network for communication and allowed us to be more a part of the community,” Romac said.
While the Red Cross currently offers preparedness training, that training often needs to be modified and made applicable to English Language Learners (ELL) and people new to the NH environment, culture and disaster threatpotential. Some examples of topics that we are looking to make culturally sensitive and create training material for include is fire safety, winter weather storms and power outages, basic emergency and safety kits, as well as educating people on the overall services the Red Cross can provide in times of a disaster.
International Services is developing culturally sensitive materials and is working to get the word out with the International Institute of New England, Lutheran Social Services, Holy Cross Family Learning Center, Catholic Charities of NE and other non-profits that currently offer classes, mostly English Language Learning classes. By working with these organizations and sharing the preparedness information with them, we can incorporate it into the classroom curriculum or group activities in a way that is most effective for learning.
Internal/ External Awareness
This program is aimed at educating Red Cross volunteers about the intercultural NH communities they work with, as well as giving external organizations and groups an awareness of what the Red Cross services are and how theyimpact the population they serve.
“Our role is to support organizations providing direct services to the immigrant population while providing information about emergencies and disasters and how to be prepared for them when it is possible. This also includes making sure that the NH Red Cross and state officials include English Language Learners and foreign-born individuals in the disaster plans so evacuation notices, emergency instructions, shelters, transportation and other resources crucial to disaster recovery are available to everyone,” Romac said. “It is our role to make sure we are preparing before and responding during and after disasters to all individuals, equally.”
Did You Know: In Washington, D.C., last October, Bao Dang became the first New Hampshire Red Cross volunteer to be presented with the International Humanitarian Service Award. The award recognizes an individual or group whose work exemplifies or inspires the humanitarian values of human dignity, respect and compassion implied in the Fundamental Principles of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network.