Friday, October 30, 2015

Change your clocks...Check your smoke alarms

By Jennifer Marsh and Bill Fortune

We apologize, we know everyone is busy, but we have taken the liberty of adding a few things to your "to do" list on Sunday. Given the time change you got an extra hour of sleep so you should be up for the task! Here we go:

1. Set your clocks back one hour (hence the extra hour of sleep).
2. Test your smoke alarms and  replace the batteries 
3. Sketch out a fire evacuation plan for your home (2 exits per room) and put that sketch on you refrigerator and discuss it with your family.
4. Practice a fire drill with the goal of getting everyone out in 2 minutes or less.  Fire experts suggest that you have only two minutes to escape a home fire. 

Check out the Johnson Family Fire Drill Video to see how they handled it.

The number of home fires and home fire fatalities increase with the colder months and they often occur at night. It is critical to make sure your smoke alarms work and that you have practiced your evacuation plan. Seven people die in the United States every day from home fires. Let’s bring that number down together.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Humanity, Migration and the Consequences of Standing By: Lunch & Learn Tackles Immigration to Europe

A Hellenic Red Cross volunteer helps Syrian refugees
arriving by boat (photo credit: Reuters)
The movement of migrants from the Middle East to Europe and the West has been deemed an international crisis by media, government leaders and social media – where the hashtag #migrantcrisis has arisen to tag stories, images and discussions.

In the second of a two-part series on humanitarianism and migration, the Red Cross of Colorado will host a Lunch and Learn on Oct. 28 featuring Dr. Nader Hashemi, director of Middle East Studies at the University of Denver's Korbel School for International Studies, and Mark Owens, Restoring Family Links caseworker for the Middle East and Asia. The discussion will focus on the protection of humanity amid what has become an immigration crisis.
Dr. Hashemi co-edited the 2013 book, The Syria Dilemma, a collection of essays shedding light on the geopolitical importance of the Syrian conflict. A nationally-recognized authority on the subject of Middle Eastern politics and culture, Dr. Hashemi has spoken extensively for both lay and academic audiences on the impact of the devastating civil war in Syria, the rise of ISIS and other current issues in the region. For Dr. Hashemi, the Syrian war is one of global importance.

"Not only has it destabilized the Middle East but now Europe is being affected," he said.

Although immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan are also arriving in Europe Syrian refugees have far eclipsed the populations arriving in Europe from elsewhere. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, nearly 4 million refugees have fled Syria, and more than 7 million have been internally displaced by the conflict. For those choosing to leave Syria, the unclear future outside of their homeland's borders is a vastly better option than the humanitarian crisis within them. Dr. Hashemi said that Syrian residents are enduring a variety of violations of International Humanitarian Law within their country.

"This includes the deliberate attack on civilian targets, use of chemical weapons, barrel bombs on cities, attacks on breadlines, torture on a massive scale, etc.," Dr. Hashemi said.

Despite the conflict in Syria, most who have fled Syria express a desire to return to their country when it is safe to do so. For Dr. Hashemi, the solution to the Syrian refugee crisis needs to be the solution to the Syrian Civil War: an end to aggression and an opportunity to rebuild.

"What fundamentally needs to happen is for the war to stop and for a political solution to be found so that Syrian refugees can return home," Dr. Hashemi said. "Most of polling says Syrians don't want to go to Europe but want [to] return home. Until a political solution can be found, the main reason why Syrians are fleeing in such huge numbers needs to be addressed."

Though it can be hard for Americans to see a way to help those affected by the faraway crises in Syria and in the European countries to which they are migrating, Dr. Hashemi says that Americans can help through democratic channels to affect change. 

According to Tim Bothe, Manager of International Services for the Red Cross of Colroado, Americans can also take these steps to make a difference:
1.     Support humanitarian organizations in their efforts to aid the refugees. Until a solution- political or otherwise- can be found, humanitarian organizations are working across Europe to manage the needs of refugees, providing medical care, food and shelter while people continue to migrate by the millions. In addition to providing basic needs like food and medical attention, the Red Cross is also offering Restoring Family Links services to reconnect displaced persons with loved ones as they resettle in Europe. Find out more and support the work of the Red Cross by visiting
2.     Commit to protecting and advocating for the humanity of refugees. Speak about refugees as individual human beings, advocate for humane treatment,  and confront hate and bigotry that demeans humans’ intrinsic value. Those wishing to help the International Federation of the Red Cross protect the humanity of immigrants and refugees are encouraged to sign the petition to stop indifference, to be presented at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva this December.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Oct. 28, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, by clicking here. Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Oct. 21 Lunch and Learn: Protecting the Humanity of Migrant Populations

Since the beginning of human history, populations have moved from place to place, fleeing conflict, seeking opportunity or simply to explore new territory. And although immigration and migration are concepts as old as humanity itself, so are the tensions that arise as people travel from one homeland to another. What is often ignored, however, in policy discussions and campaign speeches about immigration, is the essential humanity of those who cross borders in search of a better life.

As part of October's focus on the Fundamental Principle of humanity, International Services will host a Lunch and Learn event at noon Wednesday, Oct. 21, with a focus on the humanitarian concerns around migration in the Americas. The event will feature speakers Tim Bothe, of Red Cross International Services, and Gwen Murphy of Casa de Paz, which works closely with Colorado's immigrant population.

Tim Bothe, International Services specialist with the Red Cross, says that the Red Cross takes a neutral stance on the politics of migration, but nevertheless aims to maintain the humanity and safety of those who migrate in order to flee conflict and poverty in their homelands. Through services like Restoring Family Links and the provision of health care resources to migrant populations, the Red Cross works to keep alleviate the suffering and difficulty of the migrant experience.

"In its 2007 conference, the Red Cross recognized the humanitarian concerns generated by migration as one of the greatest challenges the world faces," he said. "The Red Cross does not encourage or discourage migration, rather, within its humanitarian principles, it seeks to reduce the factors that contribute to the vulnerability and sufferings of the migrant population, regardless of any status."

Immigration and migration in the Americas have become politically charged topics, but to Gwen Murphy, detention and deportation have humanitarian, not political, consequences. In her work with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and Casa de Paz, an organization that provides housing and basic services for people with loved ones at the Aurora immigrant detention center, Murphy sees firsthand families who are affected most severely by deportation and detention. She says it reminds her of the humanitarian crises of the World War II era.

“What I know about the key humanitarian issues relates to what happens to families as a result of our immigration policies. ‘Stop Separating Families’ is the slogan [of the AFSC],” she said. “As someone who is old enough to remember Ed Herlihy on the news, back in the day when the news was shown in movie theaters as a preview to the main feature, and through that medium to have learned about the events having just transpired in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s (I was born in 1947), there is a vague, haunting sense of recollection I experience as a sort-of bystander to what is a common occurrence among nonwhite populations in the U.S.”

One thing that sets migration in the Americas apart is sheer numbers. According to Bothe, immigration impacts 62 million people annually in the Americas. Populations from Central American states like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador flee crushing poverty and violence and risk personal danger in their travels. Migrants face economic difficulties and emotional trauma, as well as the threat of detention and deportation if they don't fully naturalize as citizens. But despite the size and complexity of the issue, both Murphy and Bothe say that there are simple ways that everyday people can help to preserve the humanity and dignity of migrants in their community.

"The human dignity of migrants can be upheld by respecting diversity and social inclusion," Bothe said. "The Red Cross encourages supporters to visit and add their signature to an online petition that calls for the humane treatment of all individuals migrating."

For Murphy, small steps in awareness and education are an important way to help those impacted by immigration in the community.

"I hope people will go away from the event with a whole lot more understanding of a particular flavor of suffering happening in our communities:  families being separated, people being imprisoned, our justice system broken and irrational, and that there abound concrete, specific actions folks can take," she said. "There's no reason or excuse to be bored, no lack of wholesome activities in which to engage."

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Oct. 21, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, by clicking here. Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Colorado Red Cross Volunteer Receives President’s Lifetime Achievement Award

 By Bill Fortune

“If you don’t serve your community you really are not part of that community.” A single sentence that expresses why someone would give 48 years of service to America.

Deborah (Debby) MacSwain has been a part of the American Red Cross, or, the Red Cross has been a part of Debby MacSwain, for nearly half a century. During that time she has taught water safety classes to children with special needs, supported our Armed Forces, provided leadership within the Red Cross as a volunteer and employee and helped people recover from disasters. Her commitment to the American Red Cross and to America has never wavered.
Debby speaks at the 2015 Memorial for the American
Red Cross Overseas Association after receiving the
 Lifetime Achievement award. Photo by
American Red Cross

Debby was recognized recently for her commitment at a ceremony in the Indian Treaty Room of the White House where she was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for “her lifelong commitment to building a stronger nation through volunteer service.” The letter, signed by President Obama states “Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise.”

Debby’s commitment to service began when she started teaching the Red Cross Water Safety Course. After the first year of teaching Debby was approached by the Red Cross to become a member of the Red Cross Service at Military Installations team. She served for one year in Vietnam providing support to our military.
Debby sits with a soldier while serving in Vietnam.
Photo courtesy of Debby MacSwain

At the height of the Vietnam War the Red Cross had 500 employees in country to support the war effort. Many of those were women who shared the hardships and dangers of war with the military personnel they were there to serve. Five American Red Cross staff members lost their lives in Vietnam and many others were injured. “Of all the things I have done with and for the Red Cross that experience was the most memorable,” Debby said after receiving the award. “I lost a dear comrade during that year. I think of her often and those thoughts keep me going even today.”

Debby's commitment has continued through the years as a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor.
Debby teaches a child to swim. Photo courtesy
of Debby MacSwain
She teaches water safety to children with special needs at a swimming pool on Fort Carson. "This is my passion right now," she said. "The smiles from the children when they have their first experience with swimming bring me the greatest joy."

Debby will continue her commitment to the Red Cross and the nation as a Red Cross volunteer and as a water safety instructor for children with special needs. “It makes me feel good knowing that I have helped someone or changed their life in a way that makes it better.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What did you do on your weekend?

By Jennifer Marsh

So how did you spend your weekend? Most of us might say we ran errands, did some home improvement, went for a hike, run or ride, had a date or attended a school event. Or, just maybe, we might admit that we took a nap.

Colorado Red Cross had a busy weekend and napping was not on the agenda. Our weekend included evading zombies and helping our communities become more prepared.

Academy Cadet Maxwell installs a smoke alarm at a
home in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo by
Joan Green/American Red Cross
Friday started the weekend off with a beep, as we partnered with the Air Force Academy on our Home Fire Campaign. Over 400 cadets supported by over 45 Red Crossers installed nearly 700 smoke alarms in homes in 6 counties and 24 communities in a matter of hours, the second largest Home Fire Campaign event in the United States. Some Red Crossers were up before the sun and did not reach their homes until after 10:30 at night.

Friday also saw Red Cross workers at Peterson Air Force Base, at a preparedness event aimed at 1500 people, asking them, "On a scale of 1-10, how prepared are you?" Many people stopped, admitted they were in the 1-2 range, and talked with our volunteers, Rod Gardner and Paula Gregory. "Lots of people were interested in the apps," said Rod, referring to the range of Red Cross emergency apps. Red Cross was at a second preparedness event on Petersen AFB on Saturday, where 3500 people, including families, learned preparedness techniques by playing the "Wheel of Disaster" game with Gardner and fellow Red Crosser, Drew Phillips.

Red Cross was also in Manitou Springs on Saturday, at the Manitou Springs Fire Open House, with our other Wheel of Disaster. People spun the wheel to select a type of disaster and answered a question about how to be ready in the event of that type of incident. They also had the opportunity to sign up to have smoke alarms installed in their homes, and 20 families took advantage of the opportunity.

Volunteers Adam Rae and Ken Briggs teach first aid
to boy scouts as part of the 2015 Family Safety and Emergency
Preparednessr Expo Expo in Loveland, Colo.
Photo by American Red Cross
In Loveland the Red Cross participated in the 2015 Family Safety and Emergency Preparedness Expo at The Ranch on Saturday. They taught the Pillowcase Project and CPR/First Aid classes and how to make an emergency plan. Hundreds attended to learn from the Red Cross and other supporting agencies.

Beulah citizens visit the mock Red Cross
shelter during the evacuation exercise
 in Beulah, Colo.
Photo by Thea Skinner/American Red Cross

In Beulah on Saturday, citizens came to participate in a mock wildfire exercise and tour a shelter. Officials from the Red Cross, Highway Patrol, Pueblo County, the Pueblo Police, Beulah County Fire Protection and Ambulance District, Pueblo County Animal Response Team (CART) and Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) were on hand practice their responses and to answer questions and help familiarize people with what community services are available.

And we did mention zombies... If you were one of the lucky runners who made it through the zombies in the Family Emergency Preparedness Event and Zombie Run put on by El Paso County, you would have seen the Emergency Response Vehicle at the finish line and may have received water from a FEMA Corps volunteer, one of two Air Force MPs or Russ Weeks, a Red Cross volunteer. We also had a preparedness booth for runners, family members and friends to peruse after their bout with the undead.

Sunday, Sep. 27, found Red Cross volunteer Gayle Dixon installing smoke alarms in Pagosa Springs. Red Cross workers along with 14 fire fighters and volunteers from Rotary installed 60 smoke alarms in homes at the Vista Mobile Home Park in Pagosa Springs.

While all of this was going on our Disaster Action Teams across the state were standing by to respond to home fires or other emergency needs. Saturday, Sep. 25, our teams helped a family displaced by a home fire in Lakewood.

So, a Red Cross weekend means helping those in need, saving lives with smoke alarms, preparing people for disasters and training our volunteers to better respond. That’s what the Red Cross does and we need more volunteers to make it happen. Don't you want to help your community and escape zombies at the same time? If you want to volunteer, go to and click on volunteer. Napping is so overrated.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Red Cross Volunteer Receives Presidential Lifetime Service Award

Tom Pardee (L) receives the Lifetime Service Award
from SVP Koby Langley at the Evans Army Community
Hospital in Colorado Springs.
Photo by Joe Coleman/American Red Cross
Story by Bill Fortune

Red Cross volunteers don’t do what they do for the glory. They rarely seek out recognition and prefer to go through their volunteer hours helping people. Sure a “thank you” once in a while goes a long way but it is all about the service…service above self.

Tom Pardee, a volunteer with the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces at Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH) on Fort Carson, just south of Colorado Springs, exemplifies that spirit of volunteerism and he was recently presented with the Presidential Lifetime Service award for his outstanding service to America. He has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for three decades and that follows two decades of active service with the U.S. Army. Pardee served with the Army in Korea and in Vietnam and traveled to a number of European countries and several locations in the States.

Tom Pardee (L) gestures as he talks with SVP Koby Langely
at the Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson
near Colorado Springs, CO.
Photo by Joe Coleman/American Red Cross
Senior Vice President for Red Cross Service to Armed Forces Koby Langley was on hand to present the award “The Lifetime Service Award is one of the highest awards that can be given to a citizen,” Langely said. “It recognizes people like Tom who have given so much to our country.” He also emphasized the quality of service and made note of the fact that Pardee had served over 17,000 hours as a volunteer with the SAF program at Evans Army Community Hospital and that his services will be sorely missed.

Tom Pardee displays his Vietnam era uniform at a
recognition dinner in Colorado Springs, CO in June of 2013.
Photo by Bill Fortune/American Red Cross
Pardee was taken by surprise at the award presentation and credited his grandfather with providing him the value of service to your community. He also thanked the Red Cross for giving him the opportunity to serve and that he highly recommended his experience for others saying, “I have enjoyed the chance to give back to my country and to those who have served in our military.” He went on to say that the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces program had given his life meaning and a source of pride. “I appreciate the award and I am humbled by the recognition,” he said at the ceremony. “I volunteer with SAF because I know it makes a difference. I see it in every smile, every hug and every handshake from those people I have helped.”

The recognition ceremony and award presentation was a small affair without much fanfare. That was fitting for a man that served so many years and gave of himself to so many without the need for recognition.

Pardee will actually go into “semi-retirement”. He will still volunteer with the Red Cross but not as many hours will be spent at Evans Army Community Hospital. Instead he will work in the SAF outreach program giving pre-deployment briefings to military members and their families. “I will still be only a phone call away so if they need me all they have to do is call and I will be there.” On his personal Facebook page where he announced is semi-retirement Tom ended his post with “THANKYOU OOHA Still Serving…” 

Show Us: What is ‘Essential’ for You?

When a disaster or crisis strikes, you may have only minutes to evacuate to a safer place. Whether that safer place means heading into your basement or storm shelter in advance of a tornado, fleeing to higher ground to escape flood waters, or driving miles out of your neighborhood to escape the flames of a wildfire, three things are critical: having a plan, an easy-to-grab emergency kit, and access to information that could save your life.

What would you take with you? Do you already have a go-kit ready? What you take with you should include the supplies that are essential for you for up to three days.

A lot of people think immediately about food and water, but think also about the other things you couldn’t live without: Medications. Immigration papers, insurance and other key documents. Phone numbers and addresses as a backup to your phone. Photos of loved ones. A change of underwear. A toothbrush. A beloved toy.

And there are other things that are unique to you. Things that would devastate you to lose if you fled and could never return to your home or your home was destroyed.

The Red Cross wants you to think about this very important set of things and take action to assemble them so that you are prepared. And then show us your kit. Show us what is precious to you. Show us the things that you define as “essential” for your well-being over 72 hours.

If you’ve survived a disaster, we also want to know what you learned and how that influenced or changed what you see as essential for your go-kit.

An Associated Press photographer is documenting people and the things they choose to take with them in times of emergency. If you are willing to be photographed, please contact Brennan Linsley at

At the Red Cross, we hope this creative project will provide inspiration for important conversations that spur action. Got your kit ready? Don't forget to make your plan. You can find more information, ideas and resources here:

IHL Film Series: The Killing Fields of Cambodia and The Ripple Effects of a Humanitarian Crisis

Growing up in Longmont, I learned about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia from those who had lived through it. Several friends of mine came to the area as refugees, fleeing Prime Minister Pol Pot's efforts to purge Cambodia's intellectual elite and return the country to an idealized agrarian society as part of his "Year Zero" policy. Ironically, a Cambodian refugee and classmate of mine became the first student in my high school to gain admission to Harvard. The violence that drove his family, and countless other families, to seek new lives in the US was depicted with profound realism in the 1984 film The Killing Fields, this month's installment in the International Humanitarian Law Film Series, screening at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, at the Red Cross, 444 Sherman St., Denver.

The Killing Fields follows reporter Sydney Schanberg as he and fellow journalist Dith Pran navigate a Cambodia ripped apart by ideology and violence. The two men are arrested and eventually separated. Pran is captured and forced to labor for the regime and Shanberg returns to the U.S to write Pran's story. The film garnered seven Academy Award nominations for its depiction of Pran's repeated attempts to escape the regime, detailed in parallel with Shanberg's stateside attempts to rescue his friend. The American Film Institute included The Killing Fields in its list of 100 "Most Inspiring Films" in 2006.

40 years since the Khmer Rouge gained control of the country after the country's civil war, Cambodia still reels from the Pol Pot regime. Despite the official fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, violence gripped Cambodia for two decades, finally subsiding in 1999, the year following Pol Pot's death. Many in the nation live in crushing conditions of rural poverty, in isolated villages that lack educational or vocational opportunities beyond subsistence farming. Many young Cambodians who leave their agrarian villages for the cities engage in sex work, which has lead to high rates of  HIV/AIDS among the urban population. The HIV/AIDS among the urban population. The ICRC's International Committee of the Red Cross began in 1979. providing aid in the country in 1979; the ICRC remains active in Cambodia providing mine alleviation support and offering Restoring Family Links services to reconnect families torn apart by the nation's decades of conflict. The Killing Fields provides a historical perspective on the legacies of war, genocide and extremism that still affect Cambodians decades after the height of the totalitarian regime.

A discussion of International Humanitarian Law, genocide and the preservation of human dignity will follow the IHL film presentation, and food is provided. To RSVP for the film presentation, click here. For more information on the film or the International Humanitarian Law film series, contact Tim Bothe.