Buckeye native shines light on humanitarian needs worldwide

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

When there’s a humanitarian crisis somewhere around the world, the American Red Cross sends Jenelle Eli to bear witness.

In the spring, Jenelle – who hails from Trumbull County, in the Mahoning Valley of northeast Ohio – spent a month aboard the Ocean Viking in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. She was reporting on the rescue of hundreds of desperate migrants trying to reach safety in flimsy boats.

Ivan Jimenez Garra, Mexican Red Cross and Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross survey damage in Jojutla, a small Mexican city that suffered massive damage when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in September 2017. Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Then she spent July in Warsaw, reporting to the world on the arrival in Poland of hundreds of thousands of refugees from warfare in Ukraine.

With more than a dozen years in disaster and refugee communications, Jenelle has become a highly skilled and widely respected voice.

In May, she spoke at the United Nations about the importance of humanitarian aid, drawing on her first-hand experiences with Red Cross relief efforts around the world.

Recently, the professional organization PRNews recognized her as one of the 2022 Top Women in its Industry Innovators category.

“It’s not easy to get attention from audiences about humanitarian crises – especially because there are just so many taking place at one time,” Jenelle said. “People get disaster fatigue and start tuning out all the hurt that’s happening in the US and around the world. Yet, harnessing people’s attention for good is the only way that things are going to change.

“I’m really pleased that the professional world of PR recognizes the importance of humanitarian communication – and that communicating in a way that ensures dignity for refugees is key.”

Jenelle Eli delivers humanitarian aid to Ines (right) and her neighbors in Morelos, in the wake of a 7.1 earthquake in 2017.  Photo credit: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

This is how Jenelle describes her mission: “Right now, there are more people displaced from their homes than at any other point in history. I studied refugee issues in school and have devoted my career to raising awareness about people’s needs on migratory routes and even once they’ve reached safety. I raise my hand for international missions because I know that getting refugees’ stories out and elevating their voices is the only way to truly create space for empathy.

“Humanitarians’ work speaks for itself; I simply pull out the megaphone.”

“For nearly two decades, Jenelle has vowed to amplify the stories of displaced survivors through a lens of empathy and empowerment rather than victimization and pity,” said Emily Osment, Red Cross senior media relations manager.

“Through her work, Jenelle has helped secure ports of safety for stranded migrants at sea, enforced the importance of upholding the Geneva Conventions as a neutral, impartial aid actor in the midst of war, protected the identities of vulnerable families fleeing violence and ensuring lifesaving blood reaches patients during national shortages here at home.”

Now, Jenelle has moved from senior director of media relations at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to a six-month stint as head of media relations and advocacy at the headquarters of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies in Geneva, Switzerland.

In this role, she’s directing efforts to focus attention in 192 IFRC member countries on the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“I do want people to know that they don’t have to deploy to crisis zones to make a huge difference! EVERYONE can have a humanitarian impact in their own way – whether that’s volunteering in their own community, donating money, raising awareness, or choosing a career responding to crises.

June 30, 2019. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Kids make ‘heart’ symbols alongside American Red Cross team member, Jenelle Eli, in Kutupalong—a displacement camp in Cox’s Bazar, Myanmar.  Photo credit: Brad Zerivitz, American Red Cross

“In the US, if you want to help refugees, volunteer for an organization helping to reconnect them with separated family members (like the Red Cross!) or a group that welcomes newly- arrived refugees in small cities and helps them navigate their new lives here. There are loads of ways to be a humanitarian.”

To learn more about American Red Cross activities worldwide, powered by the generosity of volunteers and donors, click here.

Add earthquake preparedness to your to-do list, even if you live in Ohio

By Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross Volunteer

Shake out

Held annually on the third Thursday of October, the ShakeOut International Day of Action is set for Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 10:18 a.m. During the self‐led drill, participants practice earthquake preparedness by learning to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”. Endorsed by emergency officials and first responders, the safe response to an earthquake is to:

  • DROP where you are, onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from being knocked down and allows you to stay low and crawl to shelter if it’s nearby. If you have mobility issues, either lock the wheels of your wheelchair or stay seated, and bend over.
  • COVER your head and neck with one arm and hand. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall, away from windows.
  • HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If you are under a table or desk for shelter, hold onto it with one hand and be ready to move with your shelter if it shifts.

Watch the video

Earthquakes in Ohio – really?  YES – REALLY

“People may say ‘Why do we need to practice earthquake drills in Ohio?’ We practice because Ohio does experience earthquakes,” said Sima Merick, executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency . “Ohio has had four low-scale earthquakes so far this year. It is also good to know earthquake safety in the event you’ve traveled to another state or country where quakes can occur with higher magnitude and frequency.”

In January 1986, a 5.0-magnitude earthquake took place in Lake County, impacting most of northeastern Ohio. This was the first Ohio quake that caused injuries and to occur near a U.S. nuclear power plant. The 1986 quake ranks as the third largest in the state.

Ohio is on the periphery of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, an area in Missouri and adjacent states that was the site of the largest earthquake sequence to occur in U.S. history. Four great quakes were part of a series at New Madrid in 1811 and 1812. These events were felt throughout the eastern part of the country and were strong enough to topple chimneys in Cincinnati. In March of 1937, western Ohio experienced a 5.4-magnitude quake that knocked down or damaged every chimney in Anna (Shelby County). So much damage was caused to the local school that it had to be torn down.

For more information, or to register yourself, your company or your organization, visit the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut website for Ohio.  Two million Ohioans have already registered.

Also, check out the Red Cross Earthquake App where you can monitor relatives out of town and get the latest alerts.  Available for Android and iOS phones. In the app’s toolkit, you can notify relatives that you are safe, and locate open Red Cross shelters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Years Later, Remembering the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

by Wedley Charles, Intern at the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

January 12, 2010 I was being lured to sleep by the monotone voice of my physical education professor at Saint Cloud High School in Florida. He was rambling about the dangers that exist in the world and I decided to doodle. I was lost in my own world until he said “Disasters happen Wedley, you’ll never know when it’ll be your last day.”

I felt like a prisoner in my own mind when I arrived home. I couldn’t escape the words my professor told me. As I was walking towards my father I overheard breaking news from CNN saying there was an earthquake the magnitude of 7.0. The earthquake hit the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring cities.

My father, his bestfriend from Cap-Haitien, and I

My father, his best-friend, and I

My father went into an immediate panic. You could hear him mashing the buttons into the body of his phone. He was trying to contact all of his family members in Haiti, but he couldn’t reach them all. I remember him telling me stories of him growing up in a village in Cap-Haitien. The people of the village raised the children together teaching them local traditions and customs. He told me it would be his dream to have me go to his village and see his family. Now that the earthquake hit, I could no longer see those dreams.

Days later we discovered that my father lost two cousins and his wife at the time lost three family members. The deaths occurred northeast of the capital; La Gonave, Gonaives, Cap-Haitien.

The American Red Cross has supported more than 4.5 million Haitians since the 2010 earthquake. They have also contributed $98 million to improve the vital health care in Haiti. This allows families to have better access to quality medical care and clean water. $48 million dollars have been spent on job training, cash grants, and livelihood programs for the devastated communities. The Red Cross has also started programs to help entrepreneurs improve their business and marketing skills and they’ve trained nearly 10,000 people in construction techniques for emergency-ready homes. They provided safer sheltering conditions for 132,000 Haitians and upgraded or repaired more than 15,000 homes enabling them to remain safe far into the future.

Haiti 5 year Infographic

Haiti 5 year Infographic

The fundraising efforts of the Red Cross contributed $488 million for work in Haiti. The American Red Cross worked in partnership with the Haitian Red Cross and local Haitian organizations to support and sustain a permanent culture of preparedness.

Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross said “I have seen firsthand the destruction and shock in the days right after the earthquake, where people were just trying to get through the day with minimal food, water and health care. I have seen the steady progress and the return of a spirit of resiliency as Haitians have rebuilt their lives and communities. The pace of progress on the road to recovery is never as fast as we would like, but everywhere you look, there is a marked difference in Haiti, and I’m very proud of all that we have accomplished.”