The reach and humanitarian efforts of the American Red Cross extend beyond the United States. For one Belmont businesswoman, a trip “down under” highlighted needs a half-globe away and focused on a worldwide mission of compassion and charitable assistance.
From Nov. 10-16, Elaine Lyerly, President and CEO of Lyerly Agency in Belmont, attended the International Red Cross Red Crescent (IFRC) meetings in Sydney, Australia. Comprised of 189 nations, the organization’s primary focus is to deliver humanitarian aid to victims of disasters around the globe. The IFRC was founded in Paris, France in 1919 on specific humanitarian principles: Humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.
The IFRC meets every four years to discuss issues that are pertinent to delivering humanitarian aid to alleviate human suffering, set policy and elect members of its Governing Board. As a result of the election, the American Red Cross was successful in the re-election of Virginia native Edward Heidt to the 20-member IFRC board. As one of three American Red Cross delegates, Lyerly’s role was to support the delegation in building relationships with Red Cross/Red Crescent societies on a worldwide basis to assure that developing countries have the resources in place to prepare for and respond to disasters. This can be for anything from earthquakes, hurricanes and fires to refugees and disease, such as tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.
Lyerly also met with Her Excellency Fatima Gailani, President of the Afghanistan Red Crescent, and discussed an organization program that provides shelter for mothers and children living on the streets. They help women find shelter and teach each a trade so that they can sustain themselves and help provide for their families. Another significant issue in Afghanistan is the number of babies born with a small hole in their hearts. This genetically-caused heart defect has been diagnosed in 5,000 infants. The Afghanistan Red Crescent raises funds to provide surgeries for these young children to correct this life-threatening situation.
There is much good work being done by IFRC around the world. “It is very gratifying to me personally to be a part of an organization that touches lives, brings hope and shines a light in peoples’ darkest hours,” said Lyerly.