Build back better

Although separated by 8,000 miles, different cultures and unique societies, the tragic earthquakes which struck Haiti and Japan bind them together in many people’s hearts and minds. And for David Meltzer – the man who oversees the global response of the American Red Cross – the two disasters require equally thoughtful responses.

David, the Senior Vice President of International Services at the American Red Cross, originally planned to visit West Palm Beach to talk about the ongoing needs of the Haitian people one year after the nation’s horrific earthquake. But after the heartbreaking events that unfolded in Japan last week – with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant emergency – he widened the scope of his trip to include an account of both relief efforts.

In both nations, David explained, the relief and recovery process could take many years. For Japan, it means the continued work of the government, Japanese Red Cross Society, and other organizations. With more than 2 million volunteers, a system of hospitals and hundreds of certified health workers, the Japanese Red Cross is asking for other nations to help through their donations and financial support.

In terms of the Haiti response, David used the analogy of a serious injury: As a first response, you rush the injured to the Emergency Room, but the hope is that with time, they are well enough to be moved to the Operating Room and, finally, restored to full health. Currently the nation teeters on the edge of the two realms – rubble is still being cleared, many people are still living under tarps, thousands of people still need food and water delivered each day…yet each month David returns to the country, he also sees more and more clean lots and more temporary housing structures in place.

Despite the unique struggle each nation faces, David emphasized the fact that both efforts focus on building the countries back better and stronger than before. And with the continued help, donations, and support from the American people, the American Red can keep on helping both nations to bounce back.

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