Rahia is just over two weeks old and her young mother, Jasmine Henry, 19, is adjusting with all the new challenges that come with a newborn: learning to nurse her infant, changing diapers at all hours of the day and night and coping with a lack of sleep. On the day we met, she had other problems on her mind. She and the rest of her extended household had just become homeless.
It happened very suddenly, when Jasmine was at home with her new baby and her partner Kirk. Her mother Cynthia and three young nieces and nephews were also in the apartment. Jasmine woke to find the rooms filling with a suffocating heat, and temperatures started to soar. The apartment complex was on fire. “It was incredibly hot, the kids were scared and they didn’t understand what was going on,” she said.
The devastating fire quickly gutted the apartment complex, claiming Jasmine’s home and belongings. Along with nearly 200 people, Jasmine and Kirk evacuated the building with their family and little more than what they wore. “We didn’t even have time to grab our shoes,” Jasmine explains.
The American Red Cross established a shelter at a college gymnasium across the street. There Jasmine and her family found a safe place to sleep, with cots, blankets, comfort kits, food, even diapers for baby Rahia. For the young nieces and nephews, there were toys and snacks.
“It’s heartbreaking when you meet a family who has just lost everything to a fire, and it can happen to anyone,” said Stacy Rice, executive director of the Mt. Baker Chapter. “Fortunately, with the help of trained volunteers, we were able to take immediate steps to meet the essential needs for these families. Now we are looking to the longer term. Our team is working directly with all of our community partners to ensure that they have the support needed to get back on their feet quickly.”
When disaster hits, residents reach out and seek ways to help. Registering as a volunteer with the local Red Cross is a good place to start. So is donating. You can help people affected by disasters like homefires and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter, or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.