American Red Cross sends volunteers to American Samoa

Lucille James
Lucille James

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  Rescue efforts continue for Samoan earthquake and tsunami victims.  The American Red Cross is deploying a team of volunteers to the Samoas.  They represent people from all over the country, including some from right here in Hawaii.

It's a team of about fifty people, and they flew out to Samoa Thursday evening.  Now, if you don't have the time to volunteer, there are ways you can help.  Instead of donating stuff like food, water and clothes,   what they actually need is this: monetary donations to buy the supplies they need.

To say these volunteers are busy would be an understatement.  They're getting ready to fly to the devastated coastal villages of American Samoa.

"We know we're going to deal with people who have lost loved ones, the emotional effect," said Cliff Spencer, an American Red Cross volunteer from Claremont, California.  "We have to be strong.  We have to be the rock that they can turn to for strength."

Spencer has helped out in dozens of major natural disasters over the years, including hurricanes, earthquakes, brush fires ..

"Fargo, North Dakota floods, Iowa floods, Nevada earthquakes, southern California wildfires," added Spencer.  "I just got off last week from the station fires in Los Angeles, which is the largest fires in L.A. history."

Typically these volunteers deal with one natural disaster at a time, but this week, they're looking at three.  So three times the number of supplies as well as resources."

It started over the weekend with the typhoon in the Philippines, then the Samoa earthquake and tsunami, and finally the Indonesia earthquake.

In all almost a thousand dead, and tens of thousands more homeless.

"My heart aches," said Spencer.  "My heart aches for the people, for the children, for all the people there."

That's exactly why Lucille James volunteered to go.

"When I saw the pictures, my heart just went out to the people," she said. "They've lost so much."

This retired nurse from Kaka'ako thought she was done serving others.  But she's back, with a renewed sense of purpose.

"And it's so important to help each other because there's nobody else," she said.  "If we don't help them, there's nobody."

"That's why they volunteer, knowing they've made a horrific situation for another human being.

"That's our reward," said Spencer. "That's our reward, knowing we helped someone in the worst time of their life."

And the reason they prefer donations is it's very difficult to make arrangements to ship supplies over and find a safe, dry place for them.  And they want to buy supplies to donate, also to support the local infrastructure.

To find out how you can help the folks in Samoa, go here or click the link to the American Red Cross on this page.