The Director of International Relations for the Spanish Red Cross and Director of Institutional Relations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mercedes Babé, made her way from Spain to several speaking engagements in the United States, one of which was hosted at the Middlebury (Monterey) Institute of International Studies (MIIS) on April 1, 2015.
Ms. Babé spoke candidly about Spanish Red Cross relief efforts on March 11, 2004 that began soon after bombs were set off on Madrid commuter trains. The Spanish Red Cross provided 2,241 survivors with medical care, psychological support, and help reuniting with family as some survivors were of several nationalities. Psychological First Aid became the focus as volunteers helped with funeral arrangements, provided information about tracing family members, and dispersed information about reclaiming a sense of normalcy. The community reacted by donating not only their time and skills but food as well as blood.
The Spanish Red Cross was instrumental in helping the country recover and has been praised for its volunteer response and in addition, much praise has been given to the International Red Cross Societies who responded to the disaster with a willingness to provide Spain with further aid.
In addition, Mercedes Babé also spent two days in collaboration with California State University Monterey Bay, initiating a summer Service Learning exchange program between students and the Spanish Red Cross Central Coast.
This summer, 20 California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) students will acquire their mandatory upper division service learning hours through work and immersion near León, Spain. Students will study in Spain from June 1st until June 30th. The experience includes a handful of field-trips to museums and attractions in Bilbao, Cartuja de Miraflores, Burgos and more. They will stop in Madrid to receive an orientation and re-meet with Mercedes Babe at national Headquarters at the Red Cross there. In addition to learning about ethnographic research while working in rural villages, students will become active volunteers with the Spanish Red Cross in Boñar.
During the two day training/retreat, students were able to connect with the local Central Coast about services they provide and their guiding principles in order to understand how they extend abroad. The President of the Boñar Chapter, Ceferina Gil was present and will be supervising the students in Spain.