A team of 10 volunteers from the Mexican Red Cross arrived in New York on November 2 to help support the extensive American Red Cross relief operation in the region.
Similar groups of Red Cross volunteers from Mexico have been on the ground after Katrina, September 11, the San Diego wildfires, and at many more American relief operations over the years. They provide a very special kind of comfort and relief to their countrymen living in America, many of whom feel isolated following a disaster.
“We came to collaborate with the American Red Cross in providing health services, and also give confidence to the Hispanic community that may at times be scared to ask for help,” said Martin Cruz Salas, a health services associate with the Mexican Red Cross. “We’ve been able to integrate into the system and work together as a single Red Cross to alleviate human suffering during this disaster.”
One Latino resident at the Sachem High School shelter broke into tears at the sight of the Mexican Red Cross logo. As the team walked door to door in the devastated areas of Long Beach on Long Island, N.Y., Latino residents opened their doors and enthusiastically embraced the volunteers who brought a familiar language and culture with them, along with food and cleanup supplies.
The Mexican Red Cross workers have been warmly received in Rockaway, Breezy Point and Nassau County, Long Island. Thus far they have visited shelters, feeding stations and accompanied Red Cross emergency vehicles to deliver food and supplies. Their assignment changes daily based upon the need. A second team of 10 volunteers arrived on November 6 to work in New Jersey.
“It is extremely impressive to see the amount of people volunteering, coming from all parts of the country to help out and how passionate they are to serve,” said Jessica Leticia Lopez Aguilar, a health services associate with the Mexican Red Cross. “It has been a great partnership so far.”
The Mexican Red Cross selects volunteers for this international operation based upon their experience with domestic disasters, previous international duty, and their facility with the language. Like their American counterparts, they come from all areas of their country, with a common set of training and skills. In Mexico, however, all Red Cross volunteers are also trained as EMTs, and they operate ambulance services.
While on duty in America, the team is supported by Josh Eckley, an American Red Cross employee in the International Response Operation Center in Washington, D.C. Eckley serves as the liaison with Central and South American volunteer groups because of his language skills and prior experience serving in Red Cross operations in Guatemala.