Former Red Cross CEO Harold Decker Exhorts PA Students to Help Others

At All-School Meeting this past Wednesday, former CEO of the American Red Cross, Harold Decker, spoke to the student body about the Red Cross’s tsunami relief program and encouraged the students to get involved and help out in anyway possible. “I hope that all of you will consider the non sibi concept and devote your youth, talent, and education to public service,” Decker said. The American Red Cross is currently playing an active role in the tsunami relief effort. The tsunami, which struck on December 26, 2004, has killed over 150,000 people and has affected the lives of millions. According to the American Red Cross website, the relief plan includes providing food and potable water, immediate family supplies, mental health counseling, healthcare and disease prevention, and disaster preparedness and prevention measures. “As of January 31, $258.7 million has been pledged to the Red Cross. Sadly this is only one quarter of what was pledged to the American Red Cross for 9/11,” Decker said. So far, the Red Cross has used about $134 million of the pledged money and is saving the rest of the money for developments that may arise. While money is an important factor in relief around the world, Decker stressed that the most important element of the Red Cross and any relief program was its volunteers. “Regular volunteers are the heart and soul of an NGO [non-governmental organization],” Decker commented. There are currently 1.2 million volunteers who bring relief to victims of war, poverty, disease, and natural disasters. Mr. Decker said that while it is important to help people who are victims of disasters, it is just as imperative to remember the millions of other people who suffer on a daily basis. “The best way to help is to make yourself available to be involved in and advocate causes that appeal to you,” Mr. Decker urged the student body. He counseled everyone to not just identify these problems, but to also be “problem solvers” and play an active role in making the world a better place. Mr. Decker said, “If we treat people as they are, we make wars. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help people become what they can.” PA is living up to Mr. Decker’s call to action by forming its own tsunami relief fund. Director of Community Service Chad Green is coordinating the Andover tsunami Relief Fund, which has raised $4000 to date. This money will be divided among five organizations: Americares, UNICEF, the American Red Cross, the Sri Lanka Tsunami Relief Fund, and Asha for Education. Mr. Green is responsible for bringing Mr. Decker to speak at Andover. Mr. Decker is the first of several speakers in a series to make Andover students more aware of the outside world and the relief efforts aimed to combat devastation around the world. The International Red Cross was founded in October 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland to give aid to the wounded and sick of all sides during war. In 1864, 12 governments signed the Geneva Convention giving support for the International Red Cross. The American Branch of the Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in 1881. Mr. Decker was named interim CEO of the Red Cross on October 30, 2001. Before that, Mr. Decker worked as Vice-President of Corporate Litigation at Pharmacia Corporation for 20 years. He joined the Red Cross in February 2001 where he served as General Counsel, and later became Corporate Secretary. Mr. Decker faced the challenge of coordinating the American Red Cross’s relief program in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11. During that time, Mr. Decker had many meetings with the press and appeared on television several times. He also had several meetings with President Bush and other government leaders to discuss issues such as blood supply, WMD (weapons of mass destruction,) and preparedness for future emergencies. Other upcoming events related to tsunami relief include a Tsunami panel held this Thursday in Kemper to give students different perspectives on the tsunami crisis. Panelists will include Dr. Henry Francis, a doctor currently working with the World Visions organization in Sri Lanka, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies Clare Sisisky, Instructor in History and Social Sciences Carroll Perry, Teaching Fellow in English Eli Lazarus, and student Eddy Kang ’07.