Red Cross working hard, needs your help

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Editor’s note: The American Red Cross is one of many relieforganizations soliciting and dispersing aid to victims of therecent earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia. Layla Edwards,executive director of the Mid-South Mississippi Chapter, submittedthis piece written by the organization’s national headquarters.

WASHINGTON – At a time when people are typically celebratingthe start of a brand new year, the people of southern Asia andeastern Africa will begin the year 2005 recovering from tragedy anddisaster. But even with this bleak picture, an internationalhumanitarian effort has formed, providing hope to disaster victimswho now know help is on the way.

The American Red Cross has announced it is sending aninitial $30 million in aid to the affected areas. Of this, $25million will help pay for relief food supplies for the victims ofthis disaster and the other $5 million will be used for non-foodrelief items, such as hygiene kits.

Contributions continue to pour in for the relief effort, andas of Thursday evening the American public had generously pledged$43.7 million to the American Red Cross International ResponseFund. Contributions to a relief organization like the American RedCross will allow the organization to provide immediate relief andlong term support through supplies, technical assistance and othersupport to those in need.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red CrescentSocieties, along with national societies like the American RedCross, are working in partnership to provide relief and aid tothose affected by this tragedy.

Three American Red Cross relief workers were deployed fromthe United States to the affected regions last week. In addition, afour-member Emergency Response Unit team, specializing and trainedin relief supply distribution, was to be deployed from the AmericanRed Cross National Headquarters in Washington.

Emergency Response Units, or ERUs, were formed to improvethe speed and efficiency with which the Red Cross is able torespond to disasters. ERUs are self-contained teams of specialistprofessionals and pre-packed sets of standardized equipment. Thepersonnel guarantee to be available to travel within 48 hours, andthe full unit aims to be operational on-site within oneweek.

The focus of the work of the ERU and all the American RedCross team members will be to distribute emergency aid supplies ina safe and dignified manner to those who need it most. The group offour will leave from Washington for Sri Lanka and will bring oneton of supplies with them to make it through a minimum of one monthof operation.

The American Red Cross maintains a specially trained team ofrelief workers experienced with responding to disasters of thisnature. Additional international response team workers are onstandby to deploy as needed. Early this week, an American Red Crossdelegate from Austin, Texas, currently working in Vietnam was todeploy to Sri Lanka. We do not anticipate the need for furtherassistance from volunteers for this disaster.

To learn about a volunteer opportunity in your community,please contact your local American Red Cross chapter.

When disasters like this strike, whether domestically orinternationally, people want to help and often offer individualand/or collections of goods or in-kind items to show their supportfor the victims. However, the Red Cross does not have the capacityto accept or collect, and does not actively solicit individual orcollections of in-kind donations in times of disaster.

The Red Cross does accept sizable, bulk donations only whenthey meet the service delivery needs of a particular reliefoperation. For more information and assistance on In-Kinddonations, please call 1-800-7-IN-KIND.

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You can help those affected by this crisis and countlessothers around the world each year by making a financial gift to theAmerican Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which will provideimmediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technicalassistance and other support to help those in need.

Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be mailed toP.O. Box 193 Brookhaven MS 39602 or presented in person from 9 a.m.until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at your local American Red Crosschapter at 228 W. Court St. in Brookhaven.

You may reach Executive Director Layla Edwards at (601)833-2771 or redcross@telepak.net.