By Bernie Nazari, Red Cross Volunteer
I have been fortunate enough to be part of the American Red Cross for over 20 years. In that time, our country has been shaken by the events of 9/11, Katrina, Sandy, dozens of devastating wildfires, and countless smaller events that were often ignored by those unaffected by each specific disaster. I have seen our organization praised for what we do and I have seen our organization attacked for not doing enough. I have lost friends that I have learned from and gained friends that I still mentor.
Years ago, as a humanitarian organization, we decided that it wasn’t good enough to just respond after a disaster had occurred. So instead, we decided to make our communities even stronger and more resilient than ever before. Through all our hard work, we remain committed to never choosing a side and never discriminating. Likewise, we never back down just because something is too hard or too inconvenient. We just tighten our laces and continue helping the people, which is exactly what we know is right.
As an immigrant from Iran, my family moved to this country to avoid the religious and political persecution carried out by the Iranian regime— much like my great-grandparents who fled Armenia during the genocide. In my years with the Red Cross, I quickly learned that I was not alone. I’ve heard countless stories from our clients who have experienced a situation similar to my own. Though the details differ, the general theme of each story stays the same. People come to the U.S. to make a better life and sometimes, they need the help of the American Red Cross. In my case, the help came in an opportunity to be part of an organization much bigger than myself.
Today, as the country goes through some difficult times, a few of us might feel conflicted, challenged or confused. And, as our brothers and sisters in South Florida hold an event that aims to honor and support our International Humanitarian programs, we might begin to question the choice of venue. In fact, right now, many are identifying our actions as “sending mixed signals.” Others are wondering if what the Red Cross is doing, is the “right thing.” Some people even believe we must “choose a side.” However, as an immigrant and as a seasoned Red Crosser, I see this current situation much differently: our work does not change and our principles do not waver.
The Red Cross has a clear mission: to help people that are in need. And, we always conduct our efforts based on a set of fundamental principles. These principles ensure that the Red Cross will always be able to provide humanitarian services impartially and neutrally, throughout the world.
The principle of neutrality is of utmost importance because, it means never taking sides in armed conflict or engaging in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature. And, as Red Crossers, we gain strength from these fundamental principles. We are truly, ONE RED CROSS.