Twice in the past 12 months, after storms of unimaginable magnitude and destruction at two opposite ends of the globe, the American Red Cross has been a source of hope and comfort for New Yorker Emelyn Saavedra, a native of Tacloban, Philippines.
Last year, as Superstorm Sandy came ashore, the 37-year-old home care worker, and her 13-year-old daughter took refuge in the Rockaways area of New York with her boyfriend’s family. Despite having grown up with typhoons in the Philippines, Saavedra, who has lived in the United States for fourteen years, was shaken up by Sandy. From the second floor apartment in the Rockaways she could see the water rising, lapping at the steps of the building.
“We just had to pray; that’s all we could do,” she said.
After the storm, the Red Cross was on the ground in the Rockaways, helping storm survivors. “The Red Cross was right there—everywhere—looking for people who had gotten hit with Sandy, who had no shelter,” Saavedra said. “They were asking us all: ‘Is there anything that could help right away? Are people hurt?’ We were happy hearing from Red Cross, telling us, ‘Don’t lose hope, we are here.’”
A year later, Typhoon Haiyan roared through Saavedra's hometown of Tacloban where her family still lives. As Haiyan approached, Saavedra was on the phone with family members providing them with storm safety tips. She could hear the wind howling in the background. They told her, “This is it, we have to move; we have to go.”
Two days after the storm, Saavedra, who was franticly trying to reach her siblings, saw a Red Cross posting on Facebook. People unable to locate family in the Philippines could call the Red Cross for help. Though it was the middle of the night, Saavedra dialed the number and was connected with Red Cross worker Tim Bothe in Colorado.
“I need help right away,” she told him. “I haven’t talked to my family; I know the Red Cross is worldwide, and I’m sure you have people over there already. Can you please check on my family?”
The Red Cross took all the information Saavedra could provide, including the names of her family and their last location. The next day at work, Saavedra was sick with worry, unable to concentrate. “And here’s a call from the Red Cross,” she said. “‘How are you doing? I want to make sure everything is okay with you. We’re still with you.’”
She was still worried but now had received reassurance that she was not alone. The Red Cross continued to check in on Saavedra in the days to come. Finally, Saavedra’s youngest sister called her from Tacloban with the news that her siblings, though displaced from their homes, were all okay.
Although she is still distressed about the situation her relatives face in Tacloban and and the grief and loss of some extended family members, she knows the Red Cross is there for her and her family.
Red Cross teams have been working in affected communities in the Philippines since the storm struck providing food, water, relief supplies, family reunification and emotional support.
Last Sunday members of the local Red Cross visited her at home as she was organizing an event for the local Filipino community. Saavedra told the volunteers that she is now planning on volunteering with her local Red Cross chapter.
She added, “I just want to thank Red Cross. I needed a family and I found it in the Red Cross."
Watch the video that provides more insight into this family’s experience.