CNMI declares March as Red Cross month

By Lori Lyn Lirio

GOV. Ralph DLG Torres and government officials are with Red Cross-NMI chapter volunteers and partners during the signing of the proclamation, designating the month of March as American Red Cross Month. Photo © Lyn Lirio

COMMONWEALTH of Northern Marianas Island Governor Ralph DLG Torres designated the month of March as American Red Cross Month in recognition of its members and supporters mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

The declaration came into effect last Thursday immediately after Torres signed the corresponding proclamation at the Governor’s Conference Room.

Across the country and around the world, the American Red Cross responds to disasters big and small. It collects about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply; provides 24-hours support to military members, veterans and their families; teaches millions of lifesaving skills such as life guarding and CPR; and through its Restoring Family Links program, connects family members separated by crisis, conflict or migration.

The Red Cross NMI chapter has assisted in nine local disasters in the past year. They installed nearly 500 smoke alarms and reached over 230 households on Saipan, Tinian and Rota with fire safety and typhoon preparedness information.

In signing the proclamation, the governor recognized the volunteers and donors of the American Red Cross.

“In the aftermath of Typhoon Soudelor in 2015, one of the hardest parts was when we had so much contribution coming in, we the government, didn’t know how to distribute that. I think the non- government organizations and other community groups all rely to Red Cross making sure that the donation was given out as fairly as possible,” Torres said.

Without the help of the Red Cross, he said, “we still have a hectic time trying to assist those who are in need.”

“Thank you, volunteers, for the hard work and countless hours of service,” he added.

John Hirsh, executive director of Red Cross- NMI chapter, said the organization’s mission is disaster services.

“We respond to the entire cycle – which is the preparedness, the response and the recovery.”

The Red Cross, according to Hirsh, has been involved in all kinds of outreach to the schools and to the community about people being prepared for the next storm and other natural calamity.

“We need the people to understand that there’s always a potential for a bigger earthquake here and where they would go, what would they do if there’s a tsunami alert, do they know where their evacuation routes are and things like, and just the basic typhoon preparedness. That is our main line of service,” Hirsh said.

According to Juan Diego V. Tenorio, disaster program manager, one of the main components of success of the Red Cross NMI chapter is due to its strong partnership with both the government and private sectors. He said they have great partnership with the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, the Public School System and other government agencies.

“One step that we have taken was to purchase smoke alarms for the hearing-impaired, something that we never had before. We have brochures in Braille to assist those who are visually impaired as well. We are trying to reach out to all the different sectors in our community to make sure that all those with special needs – whether functional mobility needs or visual or hearing impairment – that they are of the same level of preparedness information in our community and so we will continue to push these programs and help with the different government agencies,” Tenorio said, adding “we look forward to many years of partnership and collaboration.”

Moreover, Tenorio said Red Cross volunteers also go to schools to teach the children from 3rd to 5th grade about disaster preparedness.

“It is called the pillowcase project. We have been pushing that project in schools, teaching kids at a young age the importance of being prepared for disaster,” he said.

According to Tenorio, the pillowcase project was born in Red Cross Louisiana chapter.

“When hurricane Katrina was about to make landfall, they noticed that a lot of college students are walking with pillowcases on their back. They used pillowcases as their emergency kit, where they put important things in it – medicine, important documents.”

The American Red Cross presented that idea to the Disney Company, which funded the project. All the pillowcases they used for the project are branded with Disney characters.

At NMI chapter, the Red Cross focuses on teaching the grade level students. That is when the kids learn things quickly, practice it and share it with their family at home, Tenorio said.

On April 14, Hirsh said, the Red Cross will hold its 32nd annual walkathon, which involves 3,000 children from the PSS.

“Awareness is important and we are trying to raise the money. We don’t get money from our local government, or from the federal government. The mission work that we do is the result of the generosity of people donating their time and money,” Hirsh said.


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