By Maria Melo, Red Cross Volunteer
Last Wednesday, at the Red Cross Los Angeles Region’s panel on “Refugees and Displacement at Home and Abroad”, I was reminded about how, in one way or another, I ‘ve always felt connected to the Red Cross’ humanitarian work at a very deep level. In the past as a staff member, and today, as a volunteer, I continue to see how much of the Red Cross’ mission here and anywhere in the world is much about providing a safe place to rest to anyone who has been forced to leave their home because of extreme situations such as conflict, migration and disaster.
The word anyone means a lot to me. My work today is around advocating for immigrants and refugees. These days, I am painfully aware of all the hardships and discord that arise when we discuss politics. In a way, the Red Cross’ one-hundred-plus old mission to provide humanitarian work, guided by its founding principles of neutrality and independence, are a reminder that human kindness is a power that will always defy time and will always open people’s hearts.
I was moved and inspired to have the opportunity to learn about the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in war torn places such as Syria and Afghanistan, and the American Red Cross’ International Services work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) in the Mediterranean, saving hundreds of African refugees who faced being trapped in tiny, overcrowded and unsafe rafts in the middle of the sea while trying to flee conflict and famine.
At the end of the day, I was reminded of the humanitarian imperative or gut feeling that has always guided Red Crossers. That very basic need to just help others in the face of tragedy.
I’m sure any Red Crosser can relate to that. Whether it’s the volunteer in the Red Cross shelters that opened in Northern California after recent wildfires, or the Red Cross financial donor who went out to drive a Red Cross feeding vehicle in Texas, Florida or Puerto Rico after this year’s hurricanes, or the staff person who answered the call in the middle of the night to go help a family that lost everything to a fire. Red Crossers here in Los Angeles, and anywhere on the planet, know that disaster, migration or conflict are not just words or stories in the news cycle. They are a call to action to roll up sleeves, open hearts, and donate time, skills and passion to help others when it matters most, no matter who they are and where they are from. And that is simply something that will always resonate with me.