By Drew McNeil, Communications Volunteer
In the last few years, thousands of unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Central America have arrived in the United States seeking a brighter, safer future. To assist this vulnerable group of children, the Red Cross L.A. Region participated in the Brazos Abiertos (Open Arms) Resource Fair held Nov. 14 in Placita Olvera in downtown Los Angeles. The Red Cross is one of numerous organizations that joined County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to provide participants with critical access to vital resources, regardless of background or immigration status.
As part of the PrepareSoCal program to make communities more resilient to disaster across the Southland, Red Cross volunteers spoke with hundreds of attendees about ways to become more prepared for disasters. Occupying a tenuous position in society, these migrants and their families constitute a vulnerable community due to their unfamiliarity with disaster response and recovery in this country, while their legal status and language barriers restrict access to important preparation and recovery resources. They are also at higher risk for sustaining fire related injuries if there are not smoke detectors properly installed where they live. These structures may also be more likely to suffer catastrophic damage during an earthquake, threatening lives and multiplying recovery times.
To this end, the Red Cross distributed resources and information in English and Spanish about many of the Red Cross programs offered and ways to prepare. Almost 200 free backpacks were distributed that included first aid kits, flashlights, emergency blankets, and a checklist sleeve for organizing important personal documents. English and Spanish speakers described the importance of developing a family evacuation plan while children were engaged with preparedness activity books provided in English and Spanish by Disney.
Volunteers also provided information about the free Red Cross International Services program called Restoring Family Links, which works to reunite families separated internationally by conflict, natural disaster, or migration. The service can help parents and children locate one another across borders by utilizing the massive international network of the Red Cross Movement.
Participating at a press conference about the event, L.A. Region CEO Jarrett Barrios underscored that the Red Cross is not a government entity, is not interested in seeing anyone’s documents, and there are no requirements for utilizing Red Cross’ free services.
For more information about preparedness and the PrepareSoCal campaign to empower resiliency across the Southland’s most vulnerable communities, please visit preparesocal.org.