Thursday, November 20, 2014

Immunized and Confused

I wanted to bring a few different conspiracy theories to you all so you could see what is floating around in the dark corners of the Web and maybe even have an answer when a member of the community asks what the Red Cross has to say about these rumors.


Over the past several weeks, the fear and lack of knowledge about Ebola has been made apparent with calls asking us to present on the topic. They want to know how the disease is spread, what the symptoms are and how likely they are to get the virus. Along with these concerns, there is a rumor that the Red Cross has been spreading the Ebola virus and that is the only way that people have been infected. Let me just state: that is FALSE!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease can be spread from infected human to human or infected bat/primate to human. A human can be infected with the virus through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids and the virus can only enter the body through broken skin or a mucous membrane. A human can also be infected by a bat and/or primate that is carrying the infection through the same method of transfer and additionally through consuming said animal that is infected with Ebola. It CANNOT be transferred through the air or through the water.


The symptoms can appear anywhere from two to twenty-one days after being exposed and they are very similar to the flu. They can involve a fever, headache, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, stomach pain, lack of appetite, joint and muscle ache and—the one that differs from influenza—unexplained bleeding and bruising. The virus can only be transmitted while these symptoms are present. The likelihood of getting the virus in the U.S. is low. If you are a healthcare worker in West Africa or a person living in those affected countries, than the risk is higher. As for us here, not traveling or caring for the sick, we should be worried more about the flu than Ebola.

Now to the really fun stuff: conspiracy theories!
The current theory that hits closest to home is about our Red Cross. If you have not heard it already, it has been rumored that the Red Cross is in cahoots with the U.S. government to infect the people of Africa so that the government can sneak into Africa for its diamonds and oil.


The Ebola virus and its varying strands have been around for decades, since 1976. Additionally, the Red Cross does not force vaccinations, and is not a government agency tied exclusively to the United States. The Red Cross an international organization that provides humanitarian relief to those who need it across the globe. At no time could the American Red Cross have more power over the other Red Cross and Red Crescent chapters.

Lastly, I will leave you with an excerpt from the American Red Cross’s response that I feel shows how amazing the Red Cross and its volunteers are and how a few crazy conspiracy theorists are not going to bring us down!

“These allegations are an insult to the 4,000 local volunteers- themselves citizens of West African nations-who have been working tirelessly to help their neighbors. These volunteers have worked around the clock to provide prevention education, assist with burials, and provide comfort to families impacted by Ebola. In addition, the Red Cross opened a 60 bed treatment center in Sierra Leone. Patients have already started to recover and have been released from the center.”

Alexandria Desiga
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central California Region

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guess Who's Back?!

Guess who’s back, back again, Vero’s back, tell a friend! So yes ladies and gentlemen, I am back for a second year of AmeriCorps, preparedness, and Team Firestopper. This year has already been adjustments all around. I had to say good bye to coworkers who made up the preparedness team and my AmeriCorps team. I have welcomed five new AmeriCorps members to our team; two of which I share a cubicle with, and welcomed a new boss. All these changes would be enough to drive Sheldon crazy, but not me! Let me explain these changes.  

Change #1: five completely different personalities, than Thing 1 and Thing 3 (yes Dr. Seuss reference) from last year, came into my world. At first meeting, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get along with them. This AmeriBunch, as I like to call the whole group, they’re a great group. They go from the theatrical to the “let’s get down to business” types. When it’s fun time, we laugh and dance our time away, and business time, we get things done. 


Change #2: What I call, the ol’ Switch-a-roo. My boss Alex was called to duty at Red Cross HQ, which meant he had to leave the AmeriBunch in someone else’s hands. To be honest, I was worried and anxious and scared, I was becoming Sheldon (again with the Big Bang Theory reference), but then I found out Amy would take over. As excited as I was, I was worried. How was she going to help me with Change #3?! It’s been two months, it’s been all about transition, but all is well with the AmeriBunch. 

So Change #3, well, this actually began during last term. Part of my assignment as AmeriCorps was to cover bilingual presentations, events and media. As time went on, we realized the Latino community that was not fully being reached. We would hear that many of our Spanish speaking emergency clients would deny Red Cross assistance. We then wondered if this was because of a language barrier and/or misinformation on how the American Red Cross can help our Latino communities. We know many have a misconception of the American Red Cross. It was almost distrust, a feeling that we would not help them because they did not have proper credentials or their citizenship was questionable. I understood, how not knowing if an organization would help, could feel and I felt that we should do something to break this barrier.

From this desire to help our Latino communities was the creation of our Latino Community Preparedness program. This program is designed to inform these communities on how they can prepare for any emergency, and how they can help save a life. It is completely focused on Latino (Spanish speaking) communities throughout the Central Valley and Kern counties. I am also hoping to grow our bilingual speaking volunteers and encourage them to gain experience from this program. A future, personal goal is to have this grow not only with Latino community, but also with other cultures with language barriers. I am bilingual in English and Spanish, but if I can encourage those who are bilingual in other languages, this program can grow and we can help more communities. 

I’m sure from other blogs written by the AmeriBunch, you were expecting to read on how to prepare for some emergency, but I felt like I needed to share my experience coming into a 2nd term of AmeriCorps and having things flip.  I knew I was ready for the changes and as scary as they seemed; they were actually very exciting. Cheers to the next 8 months!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Have You Made Your Emergency Kit for the Zombie Apocalypse?

It has been over 6 weeks since I began my journey here at the American Red Cross. I am pleased and excited to collaborate with the fantastic six AmeriCorps members this upcoming year. With all of our past experience, ambition, and determination I am confident that all six of us will get things done for future AmeriCorps members to follow.

Within these six weeks I have learned so much and have seen many wonderful humanitarian efforts the Red Cross provides nationwide and even in the community I live in. I have engaged in presentations that educated and prepared families to be safe for disasters, and provided assistance to families after a house fire. It is a great pleasure to see the smiles of each family member when we show up to community events or during a disaster response. I am excited for what the future holds for me at the Red Cross.

I cannot stress how important it is to have an emergency kit in your household. During my presentations I have seen on an average of five audience members have kits. A kit will provide you the basics in order to live on your own until first responders arrive. Therefore having a kit will develop you to be more independent rather than depending on others to take care of your family. A kit should consist of water, food, documents, first aid and many more.

Many of us watch the show The Walking Dead, where they even stress the importance of having a kit as well. You cannot always depend on Daryl or Rick to take care of you during a zombie apocalypse. You should be prepared at all times. I was looking at previews for the upcoming season of The Walking Dead and came across this amazing item:


The Walking Dead offers a survival kit at a reasonable price that includes the following:

  1. Emergency food ration
  2. First aid kit
  3. LED flashlight
  4. Blankets
  5. Ponchos
  6. Waterproof matches
  7. Face masks
  8. And packets of water
If Daryl and Rick are fighting for their life from these flesh eating ugly zombies, I think you should make an investment and begin your kit for your family.

Daniel Avina
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Volunteers to the Rescue!

The American Red Cross relies heavily on the help of volunteers. Volunteers help our organization in many different ways, from helping out Red Cross staff in the office to assisting clients on disaster calls. I have been an AmeriCorps member serving in the Central Valley Region for over three weeks now and I have worked side by side with many Red Cross volunteers.

My first opportunity to work with Red Cross volunteers was at the 2014 A Taste of River Park event. This fun event provided guests with great food, drinks, and fashion shows. The best thing about this event was that a portion a of the ticket proceeds helped benefit the Red Cross. At this event, I was able to see how the Red Cross in the Central Valley Region came together to work as team. The Red Cross employees and volunteers worked diligently to make sure guests had a great time.

But I want to share a positive experience I had with a specific volunteer and how she saved the day.

A fellow AmeriCorps member, Alex Desiga, needed assistance with three presentations that she had scheduled at a military base.  The coordinator at the base needed two children’s safety presentations and a Be Red Cross Ready presentation for adults. All three presentations needed to be done simultaneously so a volunteer and I assisted Alex by presenting Masters of Disasters and Andrew Bashman from the Visalia office presented The Pillowcase Project.

From Left to Right: Alex Desiga, Elizabeth Barragan, Nicole German, Andrew Basham
Nicole German, the volunteer that assisted me with the presentation is a nursing student at Fresno City College and she is volunteering with the Red Cross to get presentation experience. We only had a handful of children for our Masters of Disasters presentation. In our group of children, there was a little girl that was hard of hearing. Her mother was by her side as she seemed timid and uncomfortable. Her mother had to leave her side to attend other matters, and this made the little girl so upset to the point where she started to cry.

As I went to attend to the distressed girl, Nicole stepped up to the plate and was able to continue with the other children and presentation. I was able to educate the little girl on safety and preparedness on a  one on one level, which made her feel comfortable to the point where she was able to joined the other children at the end.

The coordinator and the little girl’s mother were so grateful and pleased with how we handled the situation. I was also thankful to have Nicole there volunteering with me. I know it would have been a stressful situation for me if she was not there.

Volunteers perform 98% of outreach and disaster response in the Central Valley and are essential to the Red Cross mission.

Registering to volunteer is easy! Click here to sign up today.

Elizabeth Barragan
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region


Monday, September 29, 2014

AmeriCorps: Hitting the Ground Running

Hello everyone!  My name is Andrew, and I am excited to be a part of this year’s AmeriCorps team working with the American Red Cross.  We are a total of six this year working with the Preparedness team in the Central Valley Region, and boy did we have to hit the ground running.

Our predecessors laid down great groundwork in our communities, and it will be a challenge to live up to and exceed all of the work and hours they put in before us.  However, I know that we have a highly motivated team that is more than ready to live up to the challenge.  

From left to right: Veronica, Korri, Andrew

The first few weeks have been a bit hectic with training, and it had me rearing to get out into the community to meet our neighbors and spread the Be Red Cross Ready message.  My counterpart for Tulare and Kings Counties, Korri, and I were accompanied by our Latino Community Preparedness Coordinator Veronica on our first community outreach presentations.  We were honored to speak in front of three 6th grade classes at John J. Doyle Elementary school in Porterville, CA.  The children were eager to learn how to create their own preparedness kits and emergency action plans.  What’s more is they pledged to take this new information home with them to share with the other members of their household.

And so our mission is well underway.  I am excited to meet and teach members of our surrounding communities over the course of the next year.  I have no doubt that the time will fly by, and that we will leave our communities in a more knowledgeable and safer place than they were before.

Andrew Basham
AmeriCorps NPRC 2014-2015
Preparedness Coordinator
American Red Cross Central Valley Region

Friday, September 12, 2014

Celebrating 20 Years of AmeriCorps: #GettingThingsDone For The Central Valley

How many people get to say they were welcomed to their new job by four different U.S. Presidents? Well here in the Central Valley we know at least 6 who can say that they were.


Veronica, Elizabeth, Alexandria, Korri, Daniel, and Andrew are the new AmeriCorps NPRC members for the Red Cross Central Valley, and they were officially sworn in today by President Barack Obama, alongside Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and George H. W. Bush.  The special event was organized to honor the 20th Anniversary of the AmeriCorps program, which was founded in 1994 by President Clinton.

The event was live streamed from the South Lawn of the White House with AmeriCorps members simultaneously pledging service from their offices around the country. Here in the Valley, the six new members participated in the Fresno, Visalia, and Bakersfield Red Cross offices surrounded by volunteers and employees cheering them on and welcoming them into the Red Cross family.

Here’s video of Elizabeth, Veronica, and Alex participating from the Fresno office:


Now that they’re official, the Red Cross Central Valley AmeriCorps team will work in our community for the next 11 months, responding to disasters and increasing community preparedness through outreach and education.


To honor the milestone anniversary, Voices for National Service has issued a report, with a forward written by Chelsea Clinton, celebrating 20 years of service and impact through AmeriCorps. The report chronicles the history of AmeriCorps and celebrates the transformative impact AmeriCorps members have in local communities each day.

Now you can celebrate with us! Check out these infographics from the Corporation for National & Community Service Blog, highlighting all the work AmeriCorps has done over the last two decades. Then join the conversation online using the hashtag #GettingThingsDone to welcome the new AmeriCorps members and celebrate 20 years of service.

We can't wait to see how these six talented AmeriCorps members will get things done with Red Cross Central Valley!


Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Whoopie! Red Cross Partners with Eddie’s Bakery for A Delicious Fundraiser

Have you ever had a whoopie pie? It’s basically superior to all other desserts. Why? Because it’s like a cross between a cake, a pie, AND a cookie. It’s a triple threat! And for the month of July it can be all yours at Eddie’s Bakery for just $2.95.

And what makes this delicious treat even sweeter? Proceeds from the sale go to your local American Red Cross! So it’s basically guilt free - have a second one!


These heavenly treats are made from two decadent red velvet cake pieces united by a sweet cream cheese filling sandwiched between.


Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

So buy a special treat for someone you love, or pick up a dozen for the holiday barbecue, or surprise everyone at the office with an afternoon snack! You’ll feel good knowing that the money is going towards a great cause like the Red Cross.

Eddie's Bakery is located on the Northwest corner of Herndon & Cedar in Fresno, right behind Applebee's. The fundraiser runs for the whole month of July.


Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications