Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Invasion: Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition

 By: Andrew Klein, Communications Volunteer          


“A few weeks after Country A crossed the border into Country B, an international mission, including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, was sent to the region to evaluate and report on the crisis. The situation in northeast Country B is undeniably grim. However, the worst may be yet to come.

More than 2 million people live in northeast Country B. Since fighting began, over 215,000 people have been driven from their homes. While roughly half of these internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned, more than 100,000 people remained displaced, including tens of thousands of women and children” 

Country A believes strongly their actions are justified because Country B’s northern provinces have been hiding places for rebels who kill and maim in their effort to overthrow Country A’s government. Country B sees this as an oil-rich land grab with limited evidence of the accusation about the rebels. (A fictional account derived from reporting on real events)”

What really is justified under the law? What happens to all the displaced people? Whose responsibility is it to keep the utilities working, food available, and law and order in place? Who pays for this? Is this a humanitarian crisis? If so, will others in the region help? 

Many questions and many reference documents from conventions, treaties, and law. Diplomats and lawyers will be needed. Aid and assistance will be of paramount importance to the hundreds of thousands seeking to survive.

How is this resolved?

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members, and staff worldwide, and was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering.

International humanitarian law (IHL), also referred to as the laws of armed conflict, is the law that regulates the conduct of war. It is a branch of international law which seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict by protecting persons who are not participating in hostilities, and by restricting and regulating the means and methods of warfare available to combatants.
International humanitarian law, like the Red Cross and Red Crescent, is inspired by considerations of humanity and the mitigation of human suffering. It comprises a set of rules, established by treaty or custom, that seeks to protect persons and property/objects that are, or may be, affected by armed conflict, and limits the rights of parties to a conflict to use methods and means of warfare of their choice. 

Sources of international law include international agreements – the Geneva Conventions, customary international law, general principles of nations, and case law. It defines the conduct and responsibilities of belligerent nations, neutral nations, and individuals engaged in warfare, in relation to each other and to protected persons, usually meaning non-combatants. It is designed to balance humanitarian concerns and military necessity, and subjects warfare to the rule of law by limiting its destructive effect and mitigating human suffering.
As in almost any disagreement, each side – or multiple sides  has their own perspective, rationale, and reasoning which justifies, to them, what they did or did not do – or why what others did is not right. It is not hard to imagine the above scenario is viewed very differently by all the direct and indirect parties to these events. Often, the United Nations or similar international bodies gather representatives of the parties in conflict, allowing debate and legal considerations to be aired. These are complex, emotional, and politicized gatherings. And while almost all parties subscribe to the rule of law, interpretation of events and the law produce vigorous, even boisterous, discussions.

The American Red Cross, in partnership with the Clara Barton Competition Corporation and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), organizes and sponsors a competition to continue the spirit of Clara Barton’s work – the founder of the American Red Cross.

Some participants of the Clara Barton IHL Competition

The Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition is a simulation-based, experiential legal competition designed to expose rising professionals to the practice of IHL and to real-world challenges facing IHL practitioners during armed conflict. The Clara Barton IHL Competition is open to students currently pursuing Juris Doctor (J.D.), Bachelor of Laws (LL.B), or Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees at law schools in North, Central, and South America, as well as students attending United States and Canadian military academies and institutions. The 2021 Competition was held remotely during the weekends of  March 13-14, and March 20.

Final Round of the Competition

The Competition tests participants’ knowledge of international humanitarian law and public international law, as well as their ability to present, advocate for, and defend legal positions. This year, four teams made it to the verbal, debate-style face-off semi-finals. These were American University, the US Military Academy, the University of Buenos Aires, and the Loyola School of Law. The University of Buenos Aires was judged the champion. There are essay competitions that also brought some law schools, college undergraduates, and smart high schoolers into the international law discussions around topics of Child Soldiers and Girl’s Education.

The University of Buenos Aires team after finding out they won!

It is a challenging world out there and this competition is a chance to see and hear from the scholars who are likely to be part of the future of war and peace, justice, and the rule of law.


International Committee of the Red Cross:

The 2021 Competition Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition:

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

American Red Cross Missing Maps Program

 By: Medha Gaddam, Communications Volunteer

In the fall of 2019, Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 Atlantic hurricane and the most intense tropical storm in history to hit the Bahamas, left vast devastation behind. Knocking out power, telecommunications, and water, the disaster destroyed around 13,000 homes, leaving approximately 70,000 people homeless. 

Exacerbating the situation, many areas were not well mapped out. This left first responders helpless in some cases as they did not know the original number of buildings and roads to accurately analyze the true extent of the damage. After an urgent call, around 107 mappers mapped 9,000 buildings and 16,000 roads in five days through the Missing Maps initiative. Consequently, first responders were able to scope the environment and carry out response measures effectively. This is just one example of the impact the Missing Maps program has had on preparedness efforts for vulnerable communities. 

“The original inspiration for the Missing Maps program was the work done by mapping volunteers after the Haiti earthquake in 2010”, says Rachel Levine, the Missing Maps Program Coordinator. 


When first responders are not aware of where people live or where buildings and other infrastructure are located, it is impossible to gauge the impact of disasters and help citizens as effectively as possible. 


In 2014, the Missing Maps partnership was created to mend these gaps by mapping the world’s vulnerable communities. 

“The founding members of this program are the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). [They] thought well, what if we didn’t have to do that data scramble? What if we worked with communities early, and supported preparedness programming?” 

Six years later, Rachel believes that the biggest change in the program is an immense increase in the number of volunteers and knowledge.


Missing Maps is a collective. Our founding members are now joined by about 15 other NGO’s, and each organization contributes some magic that helps us reach our shared goals.


Art Shaw, Partnership Officer for the American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region explains that the mission of Missing Maps is, “to create digital maps that are up-to-date so that either before, during, or after a disaster, people have an idea of where the roads are, where the buildings are, and how many people are living in each building”. 

Volunteers for Missing Maps range from young students starting as new mappers, progressing into event leads. These volunteers do their work through Open Street Map (OSM). 

“[Open Street Map] is an open-source environment where you go in and mark buildings, streams, and roads in a certain area. It works its way down to someone who lives in the village, who can pull up the information that the volunteers saved. They can then go door to door and put addresses on the buildings, tell us how many people lived in the buildings, etc.” states Art. 

Mapping can be done individually or in groups through events called mapathons. Thus far, over 1500 mapathon events have been conducted in 65 countries around the world. The most recent Missing Maps event in our local region was held on January 19, 2021. It consisted of 3 Mapathon Sessions with participants from countries around the world including America, EMEA, and APAC/Japan. 

“[It] is something we offer our corporate clients to get virtually engaged with Red Cross, and with McAfee, we did three programs in one day, which is unusual!” 

There were 295 attendees who by the end, had mapped 3,830 buildings - a record number for one day. 

Another case where Missing Maps aided affected communities in recovering was in 2014, after the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. Around 1,600 mappers worked to map these areas on OSM, resulting in 4.7 million edits to the system. However, areas change with time and multiple homes, roads, and other infrastructure were left unmapped. Therefore, Missing Maps volunteers visited Leyte and Tacloban (two communities in the Philippines) in November of that year and worked to map government buildings, clinics, and other essential areas in the islands. The villages had changed once again three years later, when volunteers visualized the islands using UAVs (drones), processed the images using OpenDroneMap (ODM), and finally uploaded them into OSM. 

In 2017, when Hurricane Maria - the worst storm in 80 years - hit Puerto Rico, it resulted in major damage to the infrastructure of the island. 

Art explains, “The coast, the big cities, and the resorts were all mapped very well. However, the interiors of the island were not mapped at all. Red Cross was able to identify where cell phone service was knocked out by using OSM data, and we were able to set up satellite dishes as well as create mobile hotspots in those places. Citizens were then able to call their relatives and loved ones to let them know that they were safe.” 


Today, the Missing Maps initiative has grown to 72,000 volunteers, who over the years have mapped a total of 37 million buildings and around 1 million km of roads in OSM. 


The most recent organizations to join the effort are the German Red Cross and CROWD2MAP Tanzania. 

When asked about her personal experience as the Missing Maps Program Coordinator and her thoughts as a volunteer, Rachel says, “I started with the American Red Cross as a volunteer mapper before the Missing Maps project was founded. When I returned to the DC area after grad school, the American Red Cross had started the project more formally and I joined the GIS team to support. So I would say the project had had a big impact on me personally! To anyone looking to get involved in an idea they find interesting, I highly recommend volunteering! Most projects have opportunities for volunteers to make real impact, and it’s a great learning opportunity. I’m particularly inspired by our young people volunteers. They have really made this project their own and I love watching them progress from new mapper to event leads!” 

You can sign up to volunteer for Missing Maps at

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Service to the Armed Forces: Helping Military Members, Veterans, and their Families

Written by: Stephanie Babyak, Communications Volunteer

SAF Regional Specialist, Tommy Bolin  
Senior SAF Regional Specialist Tommy Bolin spends his work day helping military members, veterans, and their families. One vet struggles with PTSD, a wife needs to reach her husband posted overseas to let him know of a death in the family, another needs housing. However, in late Fall 2020, a most unique case landed on his desk, a mystery involving a World War II Navy war hero and an all-out effort to reunite his family with his personal effects. 

Two years ago, Chris Reilly’s daughter, an officer in the U.S. Army, completed a tour of duty at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State and moved home to her parents while she attended graduate school. The moving van shipping her belongings and those of other soldiers traveled the country from the West Coast to the final destination of the Reilly home in Delaware, making stops along the way. At the Reilly's, everything remaining in the truck was unloaded. 

As Chris and his daughter culled through the piles of boxes, they uncovered a large, leather briefcase that neither of them recognized. Inside the unlocked briefcase were letters the Navy vet had written to his finance, along with his passport, driver's license, and military medals and citations, including a Silver Star Medal, the U.S. Armed Forces decoration for valor in combat.


“If you read those letters, you’re reliving history and understanding what it was like to be in World War II because, as you know, most of the World War II vets are no longer with us.”


Army veteran Chris Reilly 
Determined to return the Navy hero’s personal effects to his family, Chris contacted agency after agency 
 the moving company, insurance company, Navy Personnel Command, Veterans of Foreign War, the Veterans Administration – all with no luck. Because Chris was not family and lacked legal authorization, privacy laws prevented the agencies from sharing information. Then someone suggested Chris contact the American Red Cross.

“I called the 1-800 RED CROSS number, they assigned me a case number, and said someone would contact me," said Chris. 

The briefcase contained the Navy hero's personal effects,
including a Silver Star medal and letters to his fiancé.

Based in Wilmington, Tommy Bolin was first assigned the case. Then, the San Diego Red Cross office also got involved as the WWII vet, who died in 1993, was from San Diego. Working with the Red Cross and a genealogist, Chris finally connected with the Navy veteran’s nephew who accepted the briefcase, letters, and medals.

This story is an example of the many ways the American Red Cross helps military members, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service. 

Since 9/11, the Red Cross has served more than 1 million military families. Service to the Armed Forces volunteers provide home comforts and critical services on bases and in military hospitals around the world. We support military families during deployments and emergencies and we continue serving our nation’s veterans after their service ends. 

NC&GCR Red Crossers distributed stockings from Operation Quiet
Comfort and the Red Cross at a holiday event at Walter Reed
National Military Medical Center.

The Service to the Armed Forces program in the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region (NC&GCR) supports military personnel, veterans, and families on 27 separate military installations in the region, at five Veteran’s Administration Hospitals, and throughout the community. Key installations supported include: Fort Meade, Quantico Marine Corps Base, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, the US Naval Academy, and the Pentagon. 

There is a team of over 1,000 active volunteers supporting the SAF mission throughout the region. 

Volunteers range from civilian to active duty, from administrative through PhD, RN and MD who practice to the full extent of their credentials. During the summer months, we add a robust program of youth volunteers with our VolunTeen programs. 

Here are some of the key ways the American Red Cross helps military and their families: 

  • Last fall, volunteers delivered Girl Scout
    cookies, stress balls comfort kits, and
    e-cards  to raise morale and support our
    military partner and veteran communities.
    Financial Assistance: The Red Cross partners with the military aid societies to help service members and their families get emergency financial assistance 24/7. 
  • Information and Referral Services: The Red Cross provides counseling, guidance, information, referrals and other social services for all military personnel and their families. 
  • Deployment Services: Before, during, and after deployments, the Red Cross provides training information, and support for military members and their families. 
  • Resiliency/Reconnection Workshops: The American Red Cross has developed the Reconnection Workshops for all military families to assist them with managing the challenges of reintegration, and to
    help them build resiliency skills that make it easier to rebound from setbacks and difficulties. Click here to learn more.
  • Holidays for Heroes: Holidays for Heroes offers individuals, corporations and community entities (church/temple groups, schools, community centers, etc.) the opportunity to support the unique work that the American Red Cross in the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region is doing for the local military and veteran community. Click here to learn more.

The American Red Cross has also launched a new online, self-service tool called the Hero Care Network. This free tool gives military families more flexibility and expanded access to help during times of crisis by allowing them to quickly communicate emergency messages 24/7 via computer, tablet, or even by smartphone. 

To download the free Hero Care App to get access vital emergency and non-emergency resources for military members, veterans and military families.  Or text: "GETHEROCARE" to 90999 


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You can join us too!

  • To learn more about the Service to the Armed Forces programs, click here
  • Make a difference in your community. Click here to become a Red Cross volunteer. 
  • Click here to learn more about donating blood with the American Red Cross near you. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My Red Cross Story: Miss Virginia 2020, Katelyn Page

Katelyn Page, Miss Virginia 2020
Written by: Clarice Nassif Ransom, Communications Volunteer

Volunteer: Katelyn O. Page, Miss Virginia 2020
Resides: Prince William County, Virginia
Years of volunteer service: Ongoing since the age of 16

Highlights of American Red Cross Volunteer Work: 

  • Ongoing blood donor; hosted an American Red Cross blood drive as Miss Virginia 2020
  • Deployed as a Shelter Associate during Hurricane Laura
  • Deployed as a Disaster Cycle Services Caseworker for Hurricane Laura recovery
  • Served as the American Red Cross Ambassador and Miss Virginia 2020 at the Annual Charity Golf Classic Fundraiser at the Robert Trent Jones Golf 
  • Served as a volunteer at U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Lying in State


"My best advice is that you will never have enough time to do everything on your plate. However, if it is important to you, you will make time. 

Volunteering is everything, and you always get back more than you give."


Meet Katelyn O. Page, Miss Virginia 2020, and an avid American Red Cross volunteer. Katelyn began her journey volunteering with the American Red Cross when she was 16-years old.

“I have donated with the American Red Cross since I was just 16-years old through blood donations,” said Katelyn. 

“Once I knew the impact that my O- blood type could make for others, I knew that I had to continue donating and encouraging others to join me.”

Kaitlyn is a regular O- blood donor. Only 7% of the population have O- blood.
Due to the versatility for transfusions, it is in high demand, but one of the rarest
 blood type's and  first supply to run out during a shortage.

Through donating blood, Katelyn feels she has helped save lives.

“Per the American Red Cross, just one blood donation can save up to three lives,” said Katelyn. 

“Something beautiful is that the American Red Cross has let me know some of the hospitals where my blood has gone to. That is the most tangible way that I know I have helped save a life.”

Katelyn continues helping others in need by volunteering wherever disasters occur. 

“The American Red Cross goes where the need is, during times of both calm and disaster,” said Katelyn.

“The American Red Cross ensures that various aspects of public health and disaster are addressed.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Katelyn rolled-up her sleeves and became a more active American Red Cross volunteer.

“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew that I had to support the American Red Cross in any way that I could,” said Katelyn. “The COVID-19 pandemic inspired me to take a more active role. As such, I serve as a Disaster Cycle Services Caseworker, which allows me the opportunity to support others during their greatest time of need.”

Katelyn has also been deployed as an American Red Cross volunteer nationally, serving on the frontlines helping others to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, a destructive Category 4 hurricane that slammed Louisiana in late August 2020, causing loss of life and devastation of property. Katelyn worked in an American Red Cross shelter and was able to build strong connections with the people she served, helping to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and even the birth of a baby born during Hurricane Laura.

Katelyn deployed multiples times in support of Hurricane Laura
during this historical and devastating hurricane season.
“One connection that I will always cherish is a family whose child was born during the hurricane,” said Katelyn. “The family was heartbroken to not have a home to bring their baby to, but they explained that the American Red Cross made the shelter feel like home. During that time, we truly saw that home is where your loved ones are, it is not a building nor space.”

Katelyn (second from the right) in Lousiana with some fellow
volunteers supporting those affected by Hurricane Laura.
Katelyn encourages everyone to volunteer. 

“My best advice is that you will never have enough time to do everything on your plate,” said Katelyn. 

“However, if it is important to you, you will make time. Volunteering is everything, and you always get back more than you give.”

Katelyn devotes her reign as Miss Virginia 2020 to volunteering.


“Serving as Miss Virginia 2020 has provided me with the opportunity to inspire other young people to do hard things, and to strive to reach a goal that they may have previously thought unattainable.” 


Katelyn served as the American Red Cross Ambassador and
Miss Virginia 2020 at the Annual Charity Golf Classic.

“I have dedicated my reign to promoting child advocacy and advocacy in young people. It is my hope that young people will become advocates themselves. The American Red Cross has helped me to do this work.”

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You can join us too! 
To become a volunteer, visit
To make a financial donation, visit
To make an appointment to donate blood, visit 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My Red Cross Story: Sherry Hwang

Written by: Stephanie Babyak, Communications Volunteer

Sherry Hwang lives by an old Chinese proverb that goes, “When you are successful, also extend your hand to raise up another with you.” 

Sherry Hawng, President and Co-Founder,
 Pyramid Systems, Inc.
 (photo courtesy of Pyamrid Systems)
As she likes to say, “Why not do it if you are able?”  

As President and co-founder of technology leader Pyramid Systems, Inc., Sherry has achieved industry recognition and numerous awards for excellence. Most recently, The Washington Post selected Pyramid as a Top 2020 Workplace. Sherry herself is a winner of the 2020 Small Business and Entrepreneur Leadership Award. And the list goes on.

Yet, Sherry attributes her success in large part to a commitment to giving back to the community and helping others.  

“People are the most important part of my company’s success,” she insists. “By helping our communities, we show we care about each other. Understanding different viewpoints and cultural collaboration makes us more successful.” 

In 1995, Sherry and her husband Jeff, CEO, founded Pyramid Systems Inc., located in Fairfax, Virginia, near the National Capital Area & Greater Chesapeake Region (NC&GCR) headquarters.
Giving back is a key aspect of Pyramid’s mission, and that’s where the relationship with the American Red Cross starts.   


“When you are successful, also extend your hand to raise up another with you. Why not do it if you are able?”

Sherry’s example of service to others is demonstrated in her many years as a Board Member, Tiffany Circle member, and long-time supporter of the Red Cross mission. Sherry first became involved with the former National Capital Region in 2010 as a Board Member. At a Red Cross Disaster Summit not long ago, Linda Mathes, former CEO of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region (now the NC&GCR), took Sherry on a tour of an on-site Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). The existing ERV fleet, she was told, was over 20 years old. Many of those vehicles were routinely experiencing mechanical issues due to their age. 

Sherry with her husband Jeff, the day the new ERV arrived, ready for service!

After hearing this, Sherry decided that the donation of an ERV would be something Pyramid employees could be proud of.


“We donated the ERV to help those people struck by disaster in our local community. We want to provide immediate comfort and safety to those whose worlds have fallen apart.” 

“When someone is undergoing a serious and traumatic life event – whether it’s a fire, flood, or something else  they need assistance fast, and this ERV can help," said Sherry.

Sherry and Jeff cutting the ribbon at a small ERV dedication 
ceremony this Fall, with former CEO Linda Mathes.

Pyramid is also a supporting partner of the Red Cross National Preparedness Program, “Ready When the Time Comes.” Under the program, the Red Cross trains employees of local businesses who can be mobilized as community-based volunteers when disasters strike. Pyramid employees were trained to operate shelters in a disaster situation and help families when they need it most. 

The Tiffany Circle is one more way Sherry supports the Red Cross local community disaster relief and blood donation efforts. The Tiffany Circle is a community of women leaders who advance the American Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent, and treasure by engaging women locally, nationally, and internationally. 


“Extraordinary women with great heart, who want to help and give communities their support. I’m honored to be part of the Tiffany Circle.” 

Sherry pictured here (front center) with some of her fellow Tiffany
Circle members at the National Capital Region 2017 Annual Meeting.
Her work to encourage women in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) is another of Sherry’s passions. On November 2, Women in Technology (WIT) named Sherry a 2020 Leadership Awards Small Business/Entrepreneur winner. Annually, the WIT Leadership Awards recognize and honor female leaders whose achievements, mentorship, and contributions to the community align with the WIT mission of advancing women in technology, from the classroom to the boardroom, in the DC Metro Area.   

“Sharing my experience and mentorship to encourage women in this field, to be confident, have a can-do attitude, and helping each other will increase participation,” Sherry said in explaining why this is so important. 

Sherry understands that “Sometimes, you don’t even know when it will be your turn to receive the help. Hopefully, the good karma will spread, and everybody will be peaceful and safe.”  

Sherry is pictured here at one of our Red Cross smoke alarm install events,
along with fellow installers and Red Cross Regional Philanthropy Officer, Art Shaw (far left).

We appreciate Sherry and all the Red Cross volunteers who support the Red Cross mission to help provide lifesaving blood and respond to home fires, wildfires, hurricanes, and other disasters and help families in need. Thank you, Sherry!

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You can join us too! To become a volunteer, visit, or to make a donation, visit

Friday, September 4, 2020

My Red Cross Story: Christine Weber

Written by: Clarice Nassif Ransom, Communications Volunteer

Volunteer: Christine Weber
Years of volunteer service: 3
Profession: Dog Trainer
Resides: Sterling, Virginia

Meet Christine Weber, volunteer for the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the past three years. As a volunteer, Christine helps people recover from disasters like home fires and makes sure they are cared for in their time of deepest despair.


“I love helping people, it’s in my nature.” 


For example, Christine will go onsite to where a home fire occurred, day or night, and help identify alternative shelter, food, supplies, and financial assistance for impacted individuals and families. 

Christine Weber

One such house fire occurred very early on Christmas morning in 2019. Christine said the house fire impacted five family members and a dog and was particularly hard on the family because it was the holidays, and they were displaced from their home. Christine said she was proud to have helped the family through this hardship by ensuring they had alternative shelter and food.

Many times, Christine works side-by-side with her father, Mike Weber, who is also a volunteer for the American Red Cross and the inspiration for Christine to become a volunteer. This father-daughter team has also helped the American Red Cross provide assistance at state funerals at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., for the late U.S. President George H.W. Bush and the late Reverend Billy Graham, according to Christine.  

“We helped support the crowds of people who came to pay respects to the late President George H.W. Bush and the late Reverend Billy Graham,” said Christine. “It was both sad and awe-inspiring at the same time because of the significance of these two individuals.”

Christine and Mike also have worked as American Red Cross volunteers at the Marine Corps Marathon, helping to aide runners along the way by providing beverages and other supplies. Additionally, they have conducted a number of American Red Cross Pillowcase project presentations in local grade schools. According to Christine, these presentations teach children the importance of being prepared to respond to disasters by having a pillowcase ready to go with supplies such as food, water, flashlight, and medicine. Christine also said another very important preparedness tool for families is to have an established place for the family to meet (like a neighbor’s tree) once they leave their home in an emergency such as a fire in the middle of the night.

Additionally, Christine is the American Red Cross volunteer who issues mission cards for the Loudoun and Prince William Counties Chapter in Northern Virginia to volunteers who are deploying. A mission card is like a pre-funded debit card issued to deployed volunteers, which the volunteers use to pay for expenses while they are deployed and responding to disasters, said Christine. 

Clockwise from top left: Christine and Pumpkin;
Christine and Buddy; Christine and Snowberry

Christine described a recent situation where she called one volunteer to arrange a meeting time and place to issue a mission card. Christine said she realized over the phone that the volunteer was having a medical situation, and she informed others in American Red Cross leadership, who then contacted the volunteer’s family member. Christine said the family member went to the volunteer’s house to check on the volunteer.  

“The volunteer was indeed having a serious medical situation and ended up in the hospital for several days,” said Christine, who said she felt good about helping out another person.

“I think it is important to be a volunteer so you can help people,” said Christine. 


“I know everyone has busy lives, but you can always find time to help somebody" 


"You feel better about life by volunteering because you know you helped someone else out. I know I would want someone to help me out if I experienced a disaster, the way I help out others through volunteering for the American Red Cross.”

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Volunteer for the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team

Most of the 60,000 emergencies that the Red Cross responds to each year are local, personal disasters, like home fires. Trained and available, Disaster Action Team volunteers are ready to respond to these emergencies, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. From offering a shoulder to cry on, to meeting any immediate needs for sheltering or supplies, to connecting people with long term recovery services, Red Cross volunteers ensure that families don’t have to face tough times alone. Join the Red Cross to answer the call when your neighbor needs help. 

For more information and to join us, visit:

Learn More About the Pillowcase Project Program - now being offered virtually!
The Pillowcase Project is a free interactive preparedness program designed for children in grades 3 through 5. The program aims to increase awareness and understanding of natural hazards, teach safety and emotional coping skills, as well as the importance of personal preparedness. Through the presentation, students learn the best ways to stay safe and how to create their own emergency supply kits by packing essential items in a pillowcase for easy transport during a disaster. Students will receive a digital workbook and will be encouraged to decorate and personalize their pillowcases and share what they’ve learned with friends and family.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Our Red Cross Story: The Jokl Family

 By Sandy Habib, Red Cross Volunteer

In 2014 and early 2015, Lee and Kirsten Jokl were excited soon-to-be, first-time parents. By all accounts, Kirsten’s pregnancy was normal until early February 2015, when their son Elin was born six weeks prematurely. While being born so early can pose a huge challenge on its own, it was just the beginning of a slew of surgeries and procedures that Elin would soon face. 

Doctors quickly discovered that he was born with a blockage in his small intestine. At just 16 hours old, Elin underwent his first surgery. His medical team identified a blockage and removed the perforated section, thinking Elin’s problems were solved. Ten days later and still in the hospital, Elin’s body was fighting an infection in his bloodstream and became septic due to another blockage that doctors hadn’t previously discovered. He was then rushed to the Johns Hopkins Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where he received his first Red Cross blood transfusion. Within days, he needed another surgery and with it, another blood transfusion.

Elin Jokl underwent his first of five surgeries just 16 hours after he was born.

Professionally, Kirsten is a Senior Physician Assistant in the Adult Emergency Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This enabled the couple to be highly involved in nearly every aspect of Elin’s care. A large part of his care at the time included ongoing blood transfusions. Lee discussed options with Johns Hopkins and the Red Cross; the team approved a plan that enabled Lee to donate lifesaving blood that went straight to his son, known as a “directed donation.”

After six blood transfusions, five surgeries and nearly three months in the NICU, Elin was finally able to go home in late April 2015. Since then, Lee, Kirsten, and Elin welcomed another addition to the family, Eva, born in 2017, and they are all happy and healthy. Elin knows the story of his early months and shows off his prominent belly scars as badges of honor. He is currently busy preparing for another proud moment, his first day of kindergarten.

Elin Jokl is ready for his next milestone: kindergarten.

Meanwhile, Lee has been doing what he can to build awareness for the critical – and constant – need for blood donors. He works at T. Rowe Price, a large financial services firm, and helped support regular on-site blood drives prior to COVID-19; he is eager to continue these workplace drives once it is safe to do so.


“Giving blood really is one of the easiest, most selfless things someone can do to have a huge, positive impact on another person. It means so much, as we know very personally.”

- Kirsten Jokl

He stays engaged with the Red Cross as a Board Member for the Central Maryland Chapter. The Board promotes the need for financial and blood donations in the local community, among other organizational priorities that support the Red Cross mission. The group recently participated in Central Maryland’s August “Run for the Red,” a virtual race through which runners secured sponsorships and donations that went to the Red Cross. Lee participated in the inaugural event “Run for the Red” and enjoyed the experience and sharing his accomplishment with friends and family on social media. 

Elin is healthy today in large part because of the generosity of blood donors and the Red Cross. Based on their experience with the Red Cross, Lee and Kirsten are all too happy to give back and encourage others to do the same.

The happy Jokl family today.
Lee explains, “I greatly appreciate anyone who takes time out of their day to donate blood, as well as the Red Cross for getting it to those in need. It was a huge process to get Elin all the blood he needed in those early months and I’m eternally grateful for all that the Red Cross did to partner with the hospital and help save Elin’s life. He wouldn’t be here today without all that.” 

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Give the gift of life by rolling up your sleeve and donating blood today – you can save up to three lives with every selfless donation. 

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