For Liz, not working for the Red Cross is like not breathing. Wherever she goes, she wants to know: “Où est la Croix Rouge?”… “Where is the Red Cross?”
Let’s start with a war in east Africa in the 1990s. We know this war that happened in Rwanda and how people fled to nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Some know this war better than others. Among them is Liz, a former Red Cross nurse who lived in a DRC border town with Rwanda.
“We gave food to refugees, put up tents, gave medical care, sent messages to families,” says Liz.
Liz responded for four years. As a Red Cross nurse, she tended to the war wounded, or in French “les blessés de guerre.” She helped until it was time to leave.
“Soldiers came and they tried to recruit my sons for the war,” she says.
She fled when her family left for Zambia and became a refugee. Even so, she turned to the Red Cross and started helping others.
“We helped friends and when others arrived from the Congo. We helped them with food, blankets, dishes, and pots. We approached them, to help them.”
Then she flees again. This time to South Africa where her passion for the Red Cross was put aside for getting food and money to support her children.
“Life there was hard. I could not work for the Red Cross in South Africa,” explains Liz.
Jump ahead several years to 2009 when she lands in the United States. One day while riding a bus in Minneapolis, she exits at a wrong (or perhaps a right) bus stop. That’s when she saw the Red Cross flag flying near the Mississippi River.
“I went there and I spoke to someone who asked me ‘what do you do?’ I told them and they said I will find a place for you.”
We could in this brief story dwell on the horror and trauma of war, but we will not. Instead, let’s turn to Liz and what inspires her to look for and serve with the Red Cross.
“The Red Cross helps me. It helps me to help people, to reduce suffering, to rescue people. They help me everywhere, not just in the Congo. They help people even back in the forest, sharing information. They go deep in the forest, even by foot, to help people.”
Like Red Cross people around the world, Liz serves without boundaries. In her country, she says, there’s a Red Cross song: “Night or day, blood or wound, always we serve.”
For Liz, this means serving for a lifetime, “I am going to help the Red Cross until my death.”
Liz is currently serving as a Red Cross volunteer cleaning manikins used in health and safety training classes such as CPR and First Aid for the American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.
Story, photo, & video credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross