American Red Cross Day commemorates mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering

May 21, 2022

By Emilia Calabrese

When sophomore Elida Kuka’s parents were living in the Republic of Kosovo during the Kosovo War of 1998 and 1999, the American Red Cross was there to assist them when their town had been burned down and destroyed in the war. 

The non-profit humanitarian organization provided her family with shelter and large sacks of food as well as blankets, which they still own today. 

American Red Cross Day is celebrated on May 21 to commemorate the organization’s humanitarian mission to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. 

The American Red Cross was founded in May 1881 by Clara Barton, who provided nursing care and supplies to soldiers throughout the American Civil War.  

The organization collects blood donations and offers CPR and First Aid training in addition to offering members of the military, veterans and their families emotional support as they cope with and respond to the hardships of military service. 

Active in nearly 200 countries around the world, volunteer teams respond to emergencies such as droughts, earthquakes and epidemics. They also support communities in preparing for future calamities and help ensure the health and well-being of children. 

Kuka said non-profit organizations like the American Red Cross do meaningful work.

“They show faith in humanity, that people can overcome their differences in race, religion, beliefs and help those in need,” Kuka said. 

Kuka described members of the American Red Cross, 90% of whom are volunteers, as courageous people.

“It is not simple to choose to risk your life in hopes of helping another individual,” Kuka said.

“It is significant that we have a day to celebrate [the Red Cross] because it has impacted many peoples’ lives whether that was through the experience of volunteering or the actual aid.” 

Junior Alex Ryabenkov said it is important to have a day to celebrate the history and impacts of the American Red Cross.

“They take care of those who have no one else to take care of them. The Red Cross helps them because they need help, and this pure spirit of human kindness in the face of bleak, self-interested destruction is fully deserving of a day to celebrate,” Ryabenkov said.

“They show faith in humanity, that people can overcome their differences in race, religion, beliefs and help those in need.”

He said the people who work as Red Cross volunteers are fulfilling the human ideal. 

“They are making a near-superhuman effort in order to save all those around the world,” Ryabenkov said.

He said the American Red Cross will continue serving the world in its mission to help people. 

“With the pandemic… and wars, especially that of Ukraine continuing, and with many nations either embroiled in wars or suffering from new disasters which they can’t afford to avert, they will continue to do good in our constantly changing world,” Ryabenkov said.

Although the American Red Cross is not physically present in Ukraine, the organization has donated $12 million to provide life-saving aid to those in need. $10 million will go to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help alleviate suffering and $2 million will go to the Danish Red Cross to provide emergency supplies to people displaced within Ukraine.

Spanish teacher Señora Rojas has been a proud member of the American Red Cross for over a decade and serves as a proofreader, screener, translator and volunteer. She has also been doing frontline volunteer recruiting for the past four years. 

Rojas said her involvement in the organization has led her to meet many people from all walks of life.

“Whether they are college deans, business leaders, students, doctors, truck drivers or retirees, our mission is the same… simply to help others,” Rojas said. 

Rojas said as a young girl, she and her family were victims of a building fire in Union City.

“Fortunately, the Red Cross was right there to provide immediate support to all 16 families by providing temporary housing, food vouchers and other support services,” Rojas said. 

She said American Red Cross volunteers play a significant role in supporting first responders and military personnel by training their Disaster Action Teams to perform essential and potentially lifesaving duties in disaster-stricken areas.  

“Take a moment to think about all the times the Red Cross has been deployed to help during weather-related disasters and local fires in our own region of the world,” Rojas said.

Rojas said she encourages people to become Red Cross volunteers because there are opportunities available that align with various skills and interests. 

“I can honestly [say] that this is a very rewarding and humbling experience,” Rojas said. 

“I hope that I can continue to play a small part in helping the Red Cross help others throughout our world by recruiting potential volunteers who will consider joining this worthy cause,” said Rojas.

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