Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy New Year!?

February 14th was a holiday. No, not the one you are thinking about with its red hearts and sweet candies, it was the Lunar New Year celebrated in many countries by many people, but most famously by Buddhists. This New Year, I was invited to the Indiana Buddhist Center where we celebrated the new year with a lovely, if sedate, ceremony. We began with a fire puja held outdoors (followed by hot tea!). We then entered the warm sanctuary filled with beautiful mandalas, cushions covered the floor, and chairs lined the walls. We all fit in the small room but barely. We listened to Geshe Jinpa Sonam chant traditional prayers including wishes for a long life for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet who will visit Indiana in May.

The celebration closed with the collection of donations for a clothing drive, hanging prayer flags in the trees outside, more hot tea, and interesting conversations with Tibetans who call Indiana home.

What does this have to do with the Red Cross?? you might rightly ask. As you remember from Fulfilling Our Mission; translating your compassion into community action, our seven fundamental principles guide our actions, and not only in times of disaster. It is our duty to learn about our community so we can better serve one another(voluntary service, impartiality, and unity). As our good friend K.P. Singh said in a recent article posted on :

"All frontiers and divides are man-created, for faiths only offer a spirit of shared humanity, message of peace, justice, and human dignity for all God’s (Great Spirit’s) Children. For one brief moment the lesson of our unity and universality stood before me and I felt may be the Tibetan Losar [New Year] and the Year of Tiger could be a new beginning for peace and goodwill throughout the lands, cultures, faith communities, and usher in a more hopeful tomorrow."

... and isn't that what we all hope for?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Responding to the Call

Sunday morning, at about 7:15, I woke from a deep sleep to the sound of my phone ringing. Deeply confused and not all the way awake, I answered it with a murmurred "yello?" It was Mary, the night worker at the Red Cross here in Indianapolis. There had been an apartment fire at 71st and Michigan Rd, and I was one of the DATs on call. By the time she finished talking I had my feet on the floor and my eyes had eased open. This was it. This was what I was trained to do.

Although I have been on the Disaster Action Team roster since August, Sunday was the first time I was called to the scene of a disaster. I pulled up on 71st street to a confusing jumble of fire trucks, police cars, and emergency vehicles. In my Red Cross vest, I was quickly spotted by a fireman and taken to the office building where the people affected by the fire were being offered coffee and donuts, a small, but welcome comfort after their ordeal. I met up with my fellow DATs on my way to the building, and the three of us helped over 30 people get housing, food, and clothes to meet their immediate needs.

We helped some get hotel rooms, some needed medicine, and some really needed to tell what had happened. I heard what it was like to wake up to the smell of smoke or the fire department knocking on your door. After it was over, they were allowed back into their fire damaged and water-logged homes with an escort from the fire department. One man came back only with his wife's blackened keys.

Being a member of the Disaster Action Team is a big responsibility. It means keeping your paperwork organized so you are ready to go, being on call during the night and while the office is closed, and working with your team to give the best response. DAT members are also willing to respond to the smallest disasters, the ones that don't make a blip in the local news, the disasters that only affect only one family, because that family needs us just as much care and comfort as the vicitims of a flood, tornado, or hurricane.

Unfortunately, DAT volunteers in the outlying counties are rare. In some cases, the entire county is served by only four devoted DAT volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about this challenging and important role with the Red Cross, please contact me ( or visit our website at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Update

As many of you know, the country of Haiti is currently in the aftermath of a major earthquake. We thank everyone who has contacted their Action Team leadership desiring to help in this time of great need. Disaster response in Haiti is currently being administered jointly by the Haitian Red Cross and the International Red Cross; Red Cross volunteers from the states are not currently needed for deployment to Haiti. However, the American Red Cross is supporting the operation on a fiscal level: if you would like to participate in responding to this major disaster through a monetary donation, please contact our offices at 317-684-1441, ext 314 for Leslie Swift. Or, you can donate through the Red Cross website here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Red Cross to honor humanitarian acts, service

The American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis is looking for nominees for their Hall of Fame Awards presented by Conseco.

The American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis Hall of Fame honors individuals and organizations that embody the core humanitarian values of the Red Cross; those who saw a need and responded with specific acts of courage or kindness, ongoing contributions that enhance the community, or a lifetime of service.

Eligibility Requirements – nominees must meet all of the following:

• Individual nominees must reside in or be employed within one of the 11 counties the Greater Indianapolis Red Cross serves: Boone, Clinton, Hancock, Hamilton, Hendricks, Henry, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Morgan and Shelby.
• Organizational nominees must have a branch or headquarters located within one of the 11 counties the Greater Indianapolis Red Cross serves: Boone, Clinton, Hancock, Hamilton, Hendricks, Henry, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Morgan and Shelby.
• The humanitarian act or service must have taken place in one of the above counties.
• The humanitarian act or service must have taken place between January 1 and December 31, 2009.

Submission deadline: January 22, 2010

For more information and a nomination form, visit

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cooking with the FBCI Ladies!

Today was a great day! Kira and I went to Gurinder Walia's house for a lesson in Punjabi cooking!! Gurinder attends the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis on Acton Road, a new FBCI partner. She taught us roti (flat bread), daal (lentils), tea, rice, yogurt, and paneer (cheese). It was all delicious and so easy (for Gurinder!). The recipe for daal was:

1 pound lentils (yellow and green)
enough water to cover the lentils to a depth of one finger knuckle
salt to taste
1 pinch chili pepper
1 table spoon tumeric
1 onion
1/3 cup fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic
garam masala

Cook lentils, salt, pepper, and tumeric in pressure cooker or crock pot until lentils are done. Chop and fry onion, ginger, and garlic until brown. Chop and add tomato and garam masala to onion mixture. Add onion mixture to lentils and stir. Garnish with cilantro.

Daal is very common in South Asian cooking as it is very nutrious and vegetarian. There are many different types of daal made with the many varieties of lentils. Be sure to wash your lentils first!

Kira and I would like to thank Gurinder and Maninder Walia for having us to their house and teaching us so much. I didn't know how to cook anything beyond peanut butter and jelly, so I am very grateful for Gurinder's kind patience with me!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brandywine Community Church Mock Disaster

November 14, the FBCI team traveled to Brandywine Community Church to conduct their Mock Disaster. The Action Team did a wonderful job meeting all the challenges offered by the injects, sometimes in a more creative way than we expected. This picture was posted on the information board for all to see in the hopes that Albert and Sprinkles could be reunited. Brandywine Community Church is our first partner in Hancock County to complete the training, so we at the American Red Cross are very excited by their participation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New @ the FBCI

We would like to welcome aboard new FBCI coordinators Kellie Mattingly(serving at the American Red Cross in Lafayette, IN) and Andrew Scott (serving at the American Red Cross in Hamilton County). We look forward to hearing their ideas, and aiding them in expanding the program into different regions of Indiana!