Dispatches from The Philippines

As the Canadian Red Cross team is busy making arrangements to set up its field hospital (ERU) in Tacloban, Philippines to provide health care for people affected by the typhoon, we wanted to share this update from Jose Garcia-Lozano, a Canadian Red Cross staff member who is currently in the Philippines with Conrad Sauvé, the Secretary General of the Canadian Red Cross.


This morning, November 16th, Conrad and I visited the Cebu Branch of the Philippines Red Cross, where we were welcomed by Chairman, Attorney Alan Nicolas Ouano, as well as Vicjay, coordinator of operations. Chairman Ouano was extremely thankful of our visit, and said that visits by other Red Crossers coming from so far away felt like a warm touch of solidarity and it was worth as much as the relief supplies they were receiving.   

The Chairman noted that all international attention was focused on Tacloban, which is understandable, as it was the hardest hit city, but that there are hundreds of communities in so many islands that were devastated and need as much support. He was very glad to hear we had been in communities like Sitio Quarry Cuna Medellin, and Barangay Cogon in Northern Cebu island, and that we had seen first hand the impact of the typhoon.

As he spoke, the branch began to be filled with volunteers of all ages, including some branch Board members who began to download relief supplies from a truck with Red Cross supplies. Other volunteers meanwhile were assembling food parcels and hygiene kits and filling the hallways and rooms with stacks of supplies to be distributed later in the day. 

The CBC’s Susan Ormiston with her filming crew were also there and they spent an hour filming and interviewing Conrad. As we left, a few young volunteers were setting up a small stand on the sidewalk, selling tickets for a rock concert in Cebu city, on November 29th to raise funds for the Red Cross; we were invited, of course! “Why don’t you stay until then? It will be a great concert!”

As I left to go to the airport, I felt confidence that the resilience of Cebu citizens, both in the city and the communities, their positive spirit and determination, was going to be the best ally to the international emergency response, and to those in the many islands working to recover from this, and counting on support from us all.

The Canadian Red Cross is inviting Canadians to donate to the Typhoon Haiyan fund to support relief efforts in the Philippines. Donations made by individual Canadians between November 8 and December 9, 2013 will be matched by the Government of Canada.

Food Friday: One bean at a time

For Food Friday, we often share recipes or fun food ideas, but this week, we’re sharing with you a story about an initiative in Cameroon to help the community grow its own crops and become sustainable – one bean at a time!

This story was written by Mirabelle Enaka Kima, and posted on the IFRC website.



Heavy rains and flooding are nothing new to the people of Cameroon’s Far North region. Almost every year, they bring devastation and misery. Last year was the worst in recent memory, with heavy downpours causing rivers to burst their banks, damaging and destroying homes, valuable farmland and people’s livelihoods.

To help families rebound quicker, the Red Cross launched a food security project with the goal to teach people improved farming techniques in order to sustain their livelihoods.

Project beneficiaries were allocated a total of 29 hectares of land for the cultivation of maize, rice, rainy season sorghum, groundnuts, beans and vegetables. The project also has a small ruminant and poultry rearing component.

Planting started in July and a couple of months later, crops of maize and sorghum, already as tall as people, now grace the landscape. However, there have been some challenges – weeds, insects, soil — and crop yields will be slightly lower than expected.

The project is currently entering its second phase, which consists of preparing and guidance in marketing the produce. During this phase, crop-drying areas will be constructed and a training workshop on drying, storing and conservation techniques will be organized in October.

As part of the program, there are also lessons focused on the composition of local foodstuffs, good cooking methods for preserving food nutrients, and traditional food preservation techniques, such as drying, smoking and salting. In addition to these basic elements of nutrition, participants were also briefed on good hygiene practices, with the women participating wholeheartedly in the hand-washing exercise.

Food Friday: Apples and Pumpkins, oh my!

It’s the season for apples and pumpkins, and Red Crossers are sharing some of their favourite seasonal recipes, which are fun for the family.foodfriday_michelleOZ

Michelle Wallis, from the Fund Development team in Ontario, says come this time of year, her family roasts their own pumpkin seeds for a snack (after they carve the pumpkins — check out the great pumkin carving in the photo!). She shared her recipe below and promises a ‘very yummy snack’:

• Pick a nice big pumpkin
• Remove seeds and place in strainer
• Place strainer in a large pot and fill pot with water so that seeds float
• Remove pulp from seeds
• Set oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit
• Place seeds one layer deep on baking trays
• Sprinkle with generous amount of your favourite pre-mixed spices (old El Paso Taco, Mrs. Dash® Fiesta Lime Seasoning Blend, McCormick’s Cajun Chicken Seasoning, Montreal Steak Seasoning, Lemon Pepper) or make your own

Bake at 175 for 2-3 hours, or as long as required until seeds are completely dry and crisp.

IMAG0484 (3)Tara Monks – Canfield, from Meals on Wheels program in Ontario has a tradition of taking her children to a farm in Milton to pick pumpkins and apples. “The kids enjoy taking the hay ride to the apple orchard and prepare to pick the biggest, juiciest apples they can find,” she says.

Tara’s homemade applesauce:

• 15-20 apples, peeled, cored, and diced (we like Cortland, but Macintosh or Honeycrisp are also good varieties)
• 2-3 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and diced (for a little extra variety!)
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp lemon or orange zest
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 cup granulated sugar (alter to taste)
• 3 tbsp cinnamon (alter to taste)

Wash, peel, core, and dice the apples and pears, and place in a large pot. Add the water, lemon juice, and the lemon or orange zest. Stir.

Place on a burner over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the apples start to break down, add the sugar, cinnamon, and water. Keep stirring occasionally until the fruit has the consistency of soft lumps. Use a potato masher or a mixer to break up the lumps of apples and pears, and keep simmering and stirring until smooth.

Eat hot or allow to cool and then refrigerate in a tightly sealed container.

Food Friday: Thanksgiving recipe swap

It’s Food Friday and Red Crossers are swapping Thanksgiving recipes to help with your holiday dinner.

happy_thanksgiving_day_with_tofurky-wideIf you have a large family like Joan Tierney from Red Cross headquarters in Ottawa, you might find it helpful to prepare some dishes in advance. Here’s a recipe for a crowd-pleaser at Joan’s family dinner:

You’ll need: 5 lbs potatoes, 1 pkg cream cheese, 1 cup sour cream, ½ cup milk, 1 tbsp butter, ¾ cup bread crumbs, ½ cup dried chives

  • Boil potatoes, cook until tender, drain.
  • Mash with the milk and 1 tbsp butter.
  • Add cream cheese and sour cream, beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
  • Stir in chives.
  • Spoon into a casserole dish, sprinkle bread crumbs over the top.
  • Bake 30 minutes or until heated through.

 And what would Thanksgiving be without leftovers!

 Kate Smissaert , community health coordinator in Atlantic Canada, has a really tasty solution for leftovers: a breakfast casserole with a crust made up of turkey stuffing:


  • 1 bag of fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup of melted butter
  • As much sage and savoury as you can handle
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • Mix this together and press it into a greased pan or muffin tins


  • Dice and fry up your favourite breakfast foods or  veggies:
  • Sausage, bacon, onion, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus…
  • Mix these ingredients with about 10 to 12 eggs and a splash of milk
  • Pour this onto the base
  • Top with your favourite grated cheese
  • Cover and bake at 350 for about 35 to 40 minutes until egg is cooked and the cheese is melted and turning golden brown.

Pam Aung-Thin, director of communications, also has a special pie recipe for leftovers, but she makes the filling. This is her version of a leftover turkey pie:

  • irish-turkey-pieMake a basic pie crust using any pie crust recipe
  • Roll crust and place in the bottom of a large glass pie dish
  • Spread leftover cranberry sauce on the crust
  • Add 4 to 5 cups of chopped leftover turkey mixed with stuffing and diced roasted potatoes (about 3-4 cups turkey to 1-11/2 cups of other ingredients)
  • Pour leftover gravy on top – about 3/4 to one cup
  • Cover with top crust, or alternatively, leave out the roast potatoes and cover the pie with a layer of leftover mashed potatoes
  • Bake according to pie crust recipe.


Food Friday: Gobble Gobble!

Gobble Gobble!

 Yep, it’s that time of year again. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we thought we’d check in with what special plans Red Crossers have and what is on their menu for the holiday this Monday.

One thing is for certain, Red Crossers will be eating well and having fun this holiday!Keep_Calm_and_GOBBLE_On

If you’re around the table with Candace Lamb, a communications coordinator for Saskatchewan and Manitoba, you won’t be trying to sneak your veggies under the table to the family dog.

“My family has found a way to make vegetables bad for us,” she says.

 Here’s her recipe for Brookville corn (She has no idea where the name came from):

  • 1-2 Package (s) of frozen Peaches & Cream corn
  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 6 spoons of water
  • 3 spoons  of sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • Put it all in the crockpot and cook till hot and creamy!

Chris Baert-Wilson, director of community health, in Dartmouth, NS has a funny Thanksgiving tradition – and apparently a wise family!

“My family starts every Thanksgiving Holiday season with a warning to me to not experiment,” she says. “ I like to try and change things up and experiment with current family favourite recipes or try new ones. Some have been spectacular successes and are a must have- like sweet potato curry and others have resulted in pinky swears to never try again, like the time I thought I would try stuffing with apricots- prunes and pine nuts. The box of stove top dressing came out real quick that year!”

 turduckenSarah Howe, from the disaster management team in Ontario, says her family sometimes has a secret potluck for Thanksgiving. Everyone brings something, but no discussion is allowed regarding what people are bringing or even what course it is. “The first year we did it,” she says, “Dinner included three desserts, rack of lamb, turducken (chicken stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey) and Scandinavian pancakes.”

Did she just say chicken stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey? Wow! I’ve never heard of this, but apparently it’s a favourite. Check out this recipe for turducken.

#CRCSyria – Join the Red Cross for a Twitter chat

Join us on Twitter Thursday, Oct. 3 at noon ET for a live Twitter chat on the Syria crisis.

The Canadian Red Cross is hosting this chat to raise awareness about the humanitarian disaster. The conflict in Syria and the resulting massive refugee influx in the region is the most acute humanitarian crisis in the world today. There are 6.8 million people in need of aid, more than 2 million refugees  and more than 4.25 million displaced within Syria as a result of the crisis.

All are welcome to join this chat – follow along with the hashtag #CRCSyria. (Here is a blog post with tips for engaging in Tweet chats.)

Two experts will be leading this chat, including Canadian Red Cross Director of International Emergency and Recovery, Hossam Elsharkawi (@elsharkawi) and Toronto Star foreign reporter Hamida Ghafour (@hamidaghafour).

Hossam ElsharkawiHossam_Elsharkawi_4

Hossam Elsharkawi’s involvement in the humanitarian emergencies field has spanned 25 years and four continents. He has worked in over 30 countries, leading disaster response teams and/or setting up field hospitals in most international major disaster and conflict situations. Plans are currently in place to deploy members of the Canadian Red Cross Emergency Response Unit medical team to set up a field hospital in a new refugee camp that is slated to open this year in Jordan. The camp could provide shelter for up to 130,000 refugees. Hossam last visited Jordan and other countries affected by the Syrian conflict in the summer.

Hamida Ghafour164a02d55e9fdefe1641df19df1219db

Toronto Star reporter Hamida Ghafour has lived and worked in the Middle East, Asia and Europe as a journalist for more than 10 years. She is author of a book on Afghanistan and has presented documentaries for British television. She has been covering the Syrian conflict extensively for the Toronto Star, and earlier this year, Hamida travelled to Jordan to cover the story of refugees. Her coverage included an in-depth look at the suffering of Syrian refugees, particularly of women and children.

a14a474b4a8fe5be2ad71cacca45ab3aChristine Pantazis

The Twitter Chat will be moderated by Digital Media Consultant Christine Pantazis (@cpantazis). Christine is a volunteer Canadian Red Cross Social Team ambassador and is a trained digital volunteer helping the Red Cross in times of disaster. Christine has seen the Red Cross Emergency Response Unit field hospital in action during a training exercise this year. She is also the co-host of the popular #RBchat, a weekly relationship-building Twitter chat which regularly yields upwards of 8.6 million impressions.

We want to hear from you

All are welcome to participate in this Twitter chat. The moderator will set the agenda for the chat by asking a series of questions from 12PM-1PM ET to Hossam and Hamida. Twitter users are encouraged to jump into the conversation and share your own comments or ask questions. To participate, you only need to sign into Twitter and follow the hashtag #CRCSyria. If you send a tweet on the subject, don’t forget to include the hashtag so everyone following the chat will see it.

Check out this infographic on the Red Cross in Syria.

Want to support those affected by the conflict? Donations to the Syria Crisis Fund can be made here.

Health Care in Danger: Photo Essay

This week, the Canadian Red Cross and the ICRC are hosting a workshop bringing together experts to identify recommendations to ensure the safety of health facilities in times of conflict. As such, we’ll be posting a blog post every day this week to help raise awareness about the need for healthcare workers to be protected in emergencies.

These photos are from the ICRC photo exhibition “Health Care in Danger: An issue for our times” composed of rare photographs, each telling similar stories although coming from very different places and times in history.

During periods of armed violence, providing health care can become an extraordinarily hazardous undertaking beset by difficulties and threats to safety. Medical teams find themselves operating without basic equipment, and sometimes without even electricity or water. To evacuate or to reach the wounded and the sick in conflict zones, health care workers sometimes have to put themselves at great risk.

These powerful photographs portray both the impact of violence directed against medical personnel, facilities and vehicles and the struggle to provide medical care during war.


Libya, 2011. The main operating theatre of a hospital in ruins after sustained bombardment.
© ICRC / André Liohn / ly-e-00318


 Afghanistan, 2010. Taxis are used to take people to hospital when there is no ambulance service.
© ICRC / K. Holt / af-e-01707


Afghanistan, 2010. It took four days for this mother to reach one of the few hospitals where her child, suffering from severe diarrhoea, could be treated. The condition of the child had worsened considerably by the time they reached the hospital.
© ICRC / K. Holt / af-e-01647


Lebanon, 1983. Ambulance damaged in cross-fire during fighting between Israeli and Palestinian forces.
© ICRC / B. Hubschmid / lb-d-00078-18


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