Red Cross Talks Blog Update

We wanted to share some news with our loyal blog readers and followers. The Red Cross Talks blog has been revamped, redesigned and has moved to a new web address:!

We’ve moved the blog from the WordPress platform to the main Canadian Red Cross website and we hope you’ll follow us there. We invite you to re-subscribe to the blog via RSS or by email so you can read the latest posts and get the most up-to-date information on what’s going on at the Canadian Red Cross.

Thanks from all of us at Red Cross Talks

Providing psychological first aid to heal the hidden hurt

Sandra Damota is an ERU delegate helping with Red Cross relief efforts in the Philippines

Sandra Damota is an ERU delegate helping with Red Cross relief efforts in the Philippines

A lot can happen in a short amount of time. That was certainly the case this week for Sandra Damota, who has deployed with the Canadian Red Cross Emergency Response Unit (ERU) to assist in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

It was Monday at 6 p.m. when Sandra officially learned she would be part of the team going to the Philippines. Over the next 24 hours, she received permission from her employer to take a leave from work, packed all the belongings she would need for the next four weeks, and said goodbye to her family and friends. She left Toronto at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Sandra spent the day in Ottawa where she was briefed on the mission ahead of her and had the chance to meet the other 12 delegates from across Canada, each with an important role to play with the ERU. Sandra’s role on the team will be to provide psychosocial support to those who come to the field hospital, so her background as a case worker in Social Services with the City of Toronto will serve her well. Sandra refers to her work with the ERU as providing ‘psychological first aid’. “When a disaster happens, it’s easy to see the physical destruction and the physical wounds and injuries. But what we don’t see is the hurt people feel inside. There has been incredible loss for the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan, in terms of losing family and friends, but also losing their homes, and everything they owned,” said Sandra. “I hope that as part of the Red Cross team, I will be able to provide comfort, help people get back on their feet and give them a sense of hope.”
On Wednesday evening, just 48 hours after learning she would be deployed to the Philippines, Sandra and the other delegates left Canada. They’ll spend four weeks in the Philippines. But a lot can happen in a short amount of time.

Support the efforts of the Canadian Red Cross in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

World Food Day: A time to reflect on our support to communities across the Sahel

*Guest blog by Emma Sturrock, Senior Officer, Emergency Response

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In 2012, 18 million people faced food insecurity in countries across the Sahel region of Africa, including Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. This emergency may have gone unnoticed by Canadians due to limited media coverage but it did not go unnoticed to the Canadian Red Cross or the greater Red Cross Movement. Early warning mobilized the humanitarian community and authorities to take early, coordinated action with the aim to save lives, protect and recover livelihoods and build resilience for future food crises.

With support from the Canadian public and the Government of Canada, we were able to deploy six delegates to the field in order to support IFRC operations.  I had the opportunity to visit several communities in the Gambia and Senegal earlier this year, and saw first hand how our approach to this response has reinforced the value of having the right people on the ground at the right time to support communities in need. One of the individuals I had the pleasure of meeting was man by the name of Mayel Diagne, a 48 year old father of five from Ndoye Diagne, a small community in northern Senegal.  He shared his story and thanked the Red Cross for all of the assistance he received, including seeds and gardening tools.   It was great to see the impact the Red Cross was having at the local level and how simple interventions can make a significant difference.

Click here to view additional photos from my visit.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Reflecting on family tradition, guest blogger Kai Tao, a Red Cross volunteer in Ontario, shares one of his fondest memories of Thanksgiving.

I spent most of my first 18 years of Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada being a member of an extended family in Minedosa, Manitoba. The ‘MacKays’ clan would get together in a little three bedroom bungalow yearly and gave me the best ever orientation to Canada. There were some 20 people, ranging from very young to very matured. I remember the aroma of turkey being prepared on Sunday with the boys driving around spotting for geese hunting on Thanksgiving.

While the turkey was served with the normal dressing and homemade cranberry sauce, the conversation quickly turned into the geese spotting teams exchanging information and deciding where hunting should take place.

Groups were formed in the kitchen, the living room was for the adults, and the finished basement was where kids played. By 2AM, we would be sleeping on any space we could find with our personal sleeping bag…until 4am when all the boys would start a breakfast cooking team and fill many thermos of coffee or soup for the hunting.

By the time I moved to Markham, I broke the tradition as my pace picked up with the larger Chinese community, but the fond memory of Minedosa goes on. My oldest daughter picks up the turkey dinner tradition again with my son-in-law, but the geese hunting portion is long gone.

Fire Safety Week: Are you ready for a fire?

Guest entry by Common Cents Mom blogger Hollie Pollard

It is Fire Safety Week, and every time I think of fire safety, I am taken back to that June night in Hamilton, Ontario, when a fast moving fire burned the thirty-unit complex that I lived next to, down to the ground. Due to the proximity of the buildings, there was the real risk that we would lose ours as well. We did lose much, but I am thankful we were able to save some things as well.

We were awoken in the middle of the night, sleeping through the sound of the fire alarms and sirens, to firemen at my door.  I grabbed my then 4-year-old daughter, her bunny blanket, and fled in our bare feet. The next couple of hours were a blur, as we watched the building burn to the ground, and the valiant efforts of the firemen as they tried to save everyone, including pets. Unfortunately, a young woman died that night, just feet from my daughter’s bedroom.  Eight feet separated life and death.

We were not prepared for the fire, and when it hit, we only had seconds to respond. You never think in a fire how quickly you need to act. Many of us ran to the streets wearing whatever we slept in, not even thinking to grab wallets, purses or the like. I never planned for a fire. I thought I was safe with smoke detectors, and even had a fire extinguisher at the ready, but I didn’t have a fire escape plan. Ever since that night, we have one that is practiced, and yes, we even go through the windows.

A baby blanket is the only item that remains from the apartment fire.

A baby blanket is the only item that remains from the apartment fire.

That night, and the next 72 hours after the fire, the Red Cross was there. They handed me a blanket to cover up with, food and drink. They supplied a hotel room when we couldn’t get back into our apartment, clothes, and even toys for my daughter. The Red Cross was there in my emergency, and for that I will always be grateful. The Red Cross plans for fire emergencies and more, and I have had the chance in the years since to work along side them at the scene of several larger local fires. To watch the team in action, and the help they give in an instant warms the heart, and makes me want to do more to help.

Are you ready to lose it all in a moment? Are you ready for a fire?

Award winning team marks decade of emergency response in Nova Scotia

Guest entry by James Sedgewick, disaster management associate, Canadian Red Cross in Nova Scotia

This September marks a decade of emergency response for a special team of Canadian Red Cross volunteers in Nova Scotia. While Red Cross volunteers did respond to emergencies for decades prior to this, the Central District Emergency Response Team (ERT) as we know it today was established as a result of Hurricane Juan in 2003. The hurricane caused significant damage in the province and highlighted the need for the Red Cross to increase its volunteer base and capacity to respond.

From an initial dozen, the team has grown into a diverse group of 120 volunteers from the Halifax area who now make up more than a quarter of the 400 dedicated disaster response volunteers in the province.

Volunteers from the Central District Emergency Response Team in Nova Scotia

Volunteers from the Central District Emergency Response Team in Nova Scotia

The ERT serves a large urban area and has contributed more than 36,000 hours over the past ten years responding to emergencies such as forest fires, apartment and house fires, and other emergencies. Members of the team also help promote disaster preparedness in their community, take part in events, and training exercises.

The team recently celebrated its Prix d’Excellence Award for 2013, awarded by the Canadian Red Cross.  The award recognizes volunteers’ outstanding and innovative accomplishments in service delivery. Longtime ERT volunteer Mary Macnab describes her experience best:

I’ve held several volunteer positions during my lifetime, and nothing I’ve done outside my family circle can compare to the enormous level of personal satisfaction I’ve gained from my work with Canadian Red Cross Emergency Response Team.

For more information on volunteering, visit

Learning first aid an empowering experience

Guest post by Sandra Brunner, a member of the Canadian Red Cross Social Team and a Red Cross digital volunteer

I recently had to update my CPR/AED skills to include infants, as I was teaching mom and baby Pilates classes. I thought it would also be a good time to get my Standard First Aid, something I had been thinking about. I got in touch with my friends at the Red Cross and signed up through them for a two day CPR/AED and Standard First Aid course.

There’s always a small amount of fear when I sign up for courses like this. The reality is that you’re learning skills that could potentially save someone’s life. That’s a lot of responsibility and not to be taken lightly.

photo Sandra First Aid training

Sandra posing with first aid training mannequins

Our instructor for the two days, Brian, was really great. He kept us going through the material at an understandable pace and kept us interested. The class was a mix of theory and practical – we practiced CPR, as well as role-playing emergency scenarios and some bandaging techniques. The idea is to practice as much as you can, so if the time ever comes, the skills are second nature and you’ll act quickly, without needing to think.

As Brian said goodbye to us at the end of the class, he said “these are good skills to have, but I hope you never have to use them”. And he’s right. I hope I never have to use them. At the same time, learning CPR/AED and first aid is very empowering. I feel good knowing that in an emergency situation, I can provide help. I’m grateful to the Red Cross for the first aid training.

Next up – I want to learn pet CPR!


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