When Hurricane Sandy unleashed its wrath on the East Coast, members of the Cruz Roja Mexicana (Mexican Red Cross) started packing their bags and gear. Within days, 10 volunteers arrived at the American Red Cross Disaster Operations Center in White Plains to get their marching orders.
But for Issac Oxenhaut, director of disaster services for the Mexican Red Cross, the first 10 weren’t enough. To help with the ongoing disaster relief across the affected region, the Red Cross provided more than 95,000 people with health services and 156,000 shelter stays in November—he sent 10 additional volunteers who arrived days later to fill the urgent need. Oxenhaut said they came for the simple conviction to help all suffering at home—or far from home.
“We are good friends with the American Red Cross … to us, there is only one Red Cross in the world and we all are part of it,” said Oxenhaut, who has been with the Red Cross for 40 years and involved in the relief of hundreds of disasters, including the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake. “It’s very meaningful for us to give people the best that we can give.”
It’s not the first time the Mexican Red Cross has delivered essential aid to its North American neighbor. Oxenhaut said many of those who came with him to New York had just returned home from assisting Louisiana recover from the destruction of Hurricane Isaac—a Category 1 storm that brought intense rain and serious flooding in coastal and inland areas. When the U.S. needed support for Hurricanes Katrina ad Ike, they also came.
All Mexican volunteers are trained as paramedics. In additional to providing emergency medical aid to accident and crime victims in all the major cities in Mexico, they are deployed to locations across the country, where only they can administer first response.
Upon arriving in New York, the first group of volunteers was dispatched to Long Island, where they attended to the medical needs of those living in Red Cross shelters. After a few days, Hurricane Sandy relief headquarters in Manhattan sent both groups to fixed feeding sites in New Jersey to further administer much needed healthcare and assist in food distribution.
Pat Hamel, disaster health services manager, welcomed the group of dedicated volunteers, especially noting their long journey and additional skills.
“In a region with a huge Hispanic community, we really needed their translating abilities,” she said. “This group has gone where we directed and jumped in where they saw additional need. You couldn’t ask for better support.”