The Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, is a consistent aspect of the day-to-day for volunteers and staff. The American Red Cross continues to carry out lifesaving missions as we navigate the current health crisis. Red Cross volunteers have remained busy supporting individuals and families who have lost their homes to house fires. Because many people remain in their homes on a more consistent basis due to COVID-19 and social distancing, the amount of home fires has increased.
In March, the Red Cross team received a call from the Miami-Dade Police Department looking for assistance. Almost 50 individuals were in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy looking for answers as to when they could return to their country. The Red Cross worked with a team from Foreign National Assistance to devise a plan for the tourists who were now stuck in a foreign country with nowhere to go.
Imagine packing for a vacation to another country, typically you only pack what is needed for the time you will be there. You have planned out your budget accordingly and maybe brought along a few extra items in case of an emergency. You are now one week into your vacation and the country you are visiting is on lockdown for international travel and you can no longer return home. This was the case for our visiting tourists. The Red Cross was able to assist with providing shelter and additional resources to everyone for two weeks until they could return home.
During this stressful time, each person became increasingly anxious. Two Red Cross Disaster Health Services volunteer nurses, Maria Gubnistky and Kristina Lara, took action by visiting the clients while following all safety protocols and ensuring the use of personal protection equipment, to check in on each person’s health. Maria and Kristina assessed their needs by checking temperatures, blood pressure, and listening to their heart and lungs.
Some of the clients with disabilities began to run out of prescription medications that are life-sustaining and time-sensitive to these individuals. Maria and Kristina reached out to the Red Cross Community Engagement and Partnership Manager, Kamalah Fletcher, for help. Borinquen Health Center offered their support via Telemedicine by refilling prescriptive medications, while the Red Cross delivered them to the clients.
Likewise, Marta Levesque, a volunteer from the Red Cross Recovery Team, helped the clients during this difficult time. She followed up with them to understand their needs, assisted with recovery planning, and discussed options for places to stay. Marta built such a strong connection with the clients and would send her messages thanking the Red Cross and the people that helped them along the way to stay safe and get home during this hectic and scary time. Marta has been working as a volunteer with the Red Cross for almost 14 years. She started while she was living in Sarasota, she then moved to Miami and is now continuing to offer assistance in Boynton Beach. “I do a little bit of everything and I love what I do, I have found a family in the Red Cross and I am proud to be a volunteer.”
Maria, Kristina, and Marta, as well as other members of the Foreign National Assistance Team, followed up with clients and maintained communication virtually until they returned home to their country. They have assisted almost 75 people from countries all over the world, such as Ecuador, Peru, and Dominican Republic.
Maria Gubnitsky, Health Services Lead, has been with the Red Cross for three years, providing humanitarian support for communities. “This kind of experience is what motivated me to be a volunteer. It’s very rewarding what we are accomplishing as the American Red Cross to alleviate human suffering.”
These volunteers provided a compassionate, helping hand to many people in need. They wanted nothing more but to get home safely, and the Red Cross was there for them.
To learn more about being a part of the Disaster Health Services team, along with many other opportunities to lend a helping hand, visit redcross.org/sflvolunteer to become a Red Cross volunteer.
Written by Luisa Torres