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Red Cross Volunteer Returns from Saipan

The atmosphere was contagious. People everywhere wanted to help.

Tom Simpson, a San Diego-based Red Cross logistics volunteer just returned from a 39-day deployment to Saipan where he assisted with relief efforts following the devastation from Typhoon Soudelor. He’s pictured here on the right alongside fellow Red Crossers Ron Beckley (Massachusetts) and Laurie Nehring (Illinois).

Tom shared some of his most memorable moments with us:

First impressions? “As soon as I stepped off the plane I just saw lines and lines of people waiting to get help. Also seeing the damage to homes and trees throughout the island was difficult. Trees were just snapped in half. People were living in a rough situation.”

His biggest challenge? As the Assistant Director of Logistics, being on an island made it difficult to get the things they needed. Electricity was just coming on widely before he left, but trying to coordinate and prioritize needs was key. “We got VERY creative and as innovative as possible. We came up with ‘DASH’ kits – Disaster Assistance to Saipan Households – and filled them with whatever we could. We had to assign shipping volunteers on both Saipan and Guam to help coordinate. Another challenge was that every shipment that arrived on Saipan had to be sniffed for snakes by a search dog. There are no snakes on Saipan and they want to keep it like that.”

Most memorable? “The PEOPLE. It wasn’t a large deployment, but they were a great work force that depended largely on event-based volunteers and locals—most of whom were youth volunteers. It was SO important and so cool to see the people, the youth, of Saipan help. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Best story? Tom reflected on a great local volunteer named “Larry” who was just 21 years old. Larry would put in 12-14 hours a day every day. He lived 30 minutes away. The team took him home one day only to see that Larry’s own home had been severely damaged by the Typhoon. “To see him with us every day but also come to find out he was dealing with his own loss was very powerful.”

On his first day back in the office, Tom reflected on his efforts by adding, “The atmosphere was contagious. People everywhere wanted to help. This disaster pushed all of us to give a little more- that’s probably why I’m so tired!”

Thanks for ALL you do, Tom!