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American Red Cross aids military relief effort at Homestead

by Airman 1st Class Danielle Grannan
Homestead Joint Information Bureau

1/20/2010 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- American Red Cross officials are providing support to thousands of evacuees from Haiti at a processing center here in support of Operation Unified Response, the U.S. military's Haitian relief effort.

"We are providing for two sites here, one for evacuees and another for the aircrews flying them in," said Jesika Davis, the American Red Cross South Dade Branch manager and Service to the Armed Forces regional director. "Our primary concern is hydration, so we are providing a lot of water as well as snacks, basic hygiene items and supplies for children and infants."

In the last two days, more than 1,500 people have arrived here from Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response. The groups are composed of repatriated American citizens and individuals holding foreign passports who sought refuge from the rubble and death that surrounds Haiti's capital city.

The Red Cross volunteers here are working in shifts, 24 hours a day, to provide support for those individuals in desperate need.

One of the volunteers, Zakiyya Brodie, is a military spouse who came to the base Jan. 19 simply to work out at the gym. When she got there, she realized that it was full of people who had recently arrived from Haiti.

"One of the guys who works here is a friend of mine," Mrs. Brodie said. "He introduced me to Jesika Davis and when I said I wanted to help, she asked if I could start today."

Emily Fish, a Knoxville, Tenn., native and Miryam Aguilar, from Miami, are also first-time volunteers.

"We are here to give people food, water, diapers, hand sanitizer, coffee--really whatever they need at the moment," Ms. Fish said.

The American Red Cross isn't the only organization on hand to provide support, but they are trying to tie it all together.

"We're trying to provide some direction for the people here," Mrs. Davis said. "We're filling in the gaps and explaining the processes."

They are also providing translators. Along with a functional role, translators provide comfort to the evacuees, giving them someone to talk to and to explain things to them in their own language after days of confusion and chaos.

"Flexibility is the name of the game here," Mrs. Davis said. "But we are also here to provide compassion and understanding."

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