As the tension in Ukraine continues, the global Red Cross network has been responding to the crisis. The Ukrainian Red Cross Society’s first aid teams are providing impartial humanitarian assistance in highly challenging situations throughout the affected regions.
The American Red Cross has committed $100,000 to support the distribution of shelter and relief items to affected communities. In addition, Carrie Santos, executive director, International Response and Programs, at the American Red Cross has been in the region for the past week helping the Ukrainian Red Cross with the outreach to the public.
Here is her report from Ukraine:
Q: Why are you in Ukraine? What kind of work are you doing?
I am here to help the Ukrainian Red Cross with its public messaging about its humanitarian mission, especially to help people understand that it is a neutral and independent organization.
Q: Is this your first trip to Ukraine? How is this trip different?
I was in Kyiv ten years ago and very happy to be back in this beautiful and peaceful city in the spring time. The tensions and strong emotions that are broadcast every day on the television are not apparent walking through the quiet streets of the capitol city. Ten years ago I don't think anyone could have imagined that the country would be facing the stresses and challenges it is now undergoing.
Q: What are should people should know about this crisis?
It is not simple for an outsider to divide people into simple groups, like "Russians" and "Ukrainians." Someone's last name and what language they use to address you are only a starting point. It is not even enough to know what region someone is from in Ukraine. So much more goes into how people feel about the future of the country and the path it should take at this critical moment.
Q: How is the Ukrainian Red Cross helping people affected by this crisis?
The Ukrainian Red Cross has been training new volunteers in first aid- 450 since the outbreak of the crisis- so that they can help respond to any injuries during protests or as a result of the other sporadic violence that has broken out. It is offering first aid classes to the public at large as well as preparing emergency rapid response teams in each of its branches.
Q: Most of the images we see on TV are related to the crisis. Tell us one thing people should remember about the day to day lives of Ukrainians.
The people of Kyiv truly love their coffee. It seems like there must be a ratio of one commercial espresso machine for every twenty people. Small kiosks are selling "Kapuchino" and "Late" on every corner for about $1.00 each. My favorite are the "Cafes on Wheels" - mini pick-up trucks with a covered cab. When you open up the rear doors, there's the espresso machine ready to go and with the price list posted on the inside of the door. I stop at one every morning on my way to the headquarters of the Ukrainian Red Cross.
Q: How has this deployment affected you?
Usually members of my team are the ones who get sent to help out in crises. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be working in a country where both my language skills –I speak Russian and Polish- and professional skills can be put to use to help the Red Cross continue its humanitarian work.