By Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer
March 8 is International Women’s Day, when we focus on the leadership, expertise, nurturing and down-and-dirty sweat labor that women contribute around the world, 365 days a year.
Coincidentally, Women’s Day falls in March – Red Cross Month – when we focus on the wide range of humanitarian services that Red Crossers contribute around the world, 12 months a year.
I’m proud to be part of the American Red Cross, which was launched by a woman, is headed by women, and values the talents and dedication of women at every level.
Women like my friend, Red Crosser extraordinaire Winnie Romeril. A volunteer for nearly 30 years, she has taught first aid and CPR, coached International Humanitarian Law classes, and served as a bilingual communicator at disasters all over the United States and across the world:
Sri Lanka and the Maldives; Peru; Haiti, carrying cash from the Red Cross to kick-start earthquake relief efforts with the Haitian Red Cross; the Philippines, where she even helped build a hanging bridge to get relief supplies to a remote village; Canada; Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
She’s been posted to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, Switzerland, to tell how the Red Cross brings hope across the world, and to Sierra Leone in Africa at the height of the Ebola outbreak, representing the World Health Organization.
Winnie’s courage and skill reminds me of Clara Barton, who started out as a teacher, became one of the first women to work in the U.S. Patent Office, and then took to the battlefields of the Civil War, ministering to the wounded and suffering on both sides of the conflict.
After attending to civilians during the Franco-Prussian War in Europe, she returned to the United States to found the Red Cross, which for more than 130 years has mobilized women – and men – to help prepare for, prevent and respond to emergencies.
Currently, two-thirds of our Red Cross volunteers are women, nearly 70 percent of the paid workforce is women and nearly half of the executive ranks are women.
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chairman of the board, and Gail McGovern, president and CEO, top the leadership team.
It’s no small job to head a $2.65 billion organization that Americans rely on to respond to more than 60,000 natural and human-caused disasters a year; collect and test some 40 percent of the nation’s lifesaving blood supply; train millions of people in first aid, CPR, AED, water safety and youth preparedness; and provide more than half a million services to our men and women in the armed forces.
People like me are the hands and heart of the Red Cross too: donating blood, responding to disasters, helping install smoke alarms to make neighborhoods safer, providing leadership at the chapter level and keeping my first aid, CPR and AED skills up to date.
I’m happy to celebrate International Women’s Day by focusing on women – past and present – who provide vital services. I know it happens all over the world every day, in actions big and small.
To investigate what you – woman or man! – can do, please check out redcross.org during Red Cross Month.
Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross Board Member and volunteer