By Stephanie Murphy, Canadian Red Cross

Have you ever been curious about the doctors, nurses, social workers and technicians the Red Cross sends overseas when a disaster strikes? Who are they? What inspires them to do humanitarian aid work?
Canadian Red Cross aid workers answer your questions
On February 9, eight Canadian Red Cross aid workers answered questions like these, submitted by Canadians from across the country, in a live-stream panel for International Development Week. They discussed how they decide to go on a mission, the biggest challenge in returning home and what they always bring with them. 

If you missed the livestream, the full panel discussions are available on YouTube in both English and French.

After the panel, three of our aid workers took the time to answer a few of the questions we didn’t get to.

How do you balance being an aid worker with maintaining employment and relationships at home?

Chiran Livera, Canadian Red Cross deputy director of disaster management in Ontario: This isn’t easy, even as a Red Cross employee. Because I work in emergency response and could get called for an assignment and travel within 12 hours, I have an agreement with my manager on who will cover for me and which months of the year I may say “yes” to an assignment. Fortunately I have a very understanding family and I know which months I am available to say “yes” to an assignment and which months are busy with other family commitments.

Sabrina Chung, registered nurse: It’s not easy sometimes, but it definitely helps to have a supportive employer and loved ones who understand why you do aid work. It is important that they see how your professional duties and personal relationships at home will be maintained while you are away, and how the overseas work can benefit them when you return.

Eight Canadian Red Cross aid workers answered questionsWas there a time when you felt like you couldn’t do enough? How did you handle it?

Nicole Robicheau, Canadian Red Cross communications advisor: I think every time I go on a mission, I have the feeling I can’t do enough, because there are always so many needs. That’s why not one organization alone can help everyone affected. The Red Cross works together with other humanitarian organizations and governments to help as many people as possible.

Chiran: Yes – when there are not enough resources to meet the needs, it’s very difficult to prioritize. For example, in the Haiti earthquake I was part of a team that decided we would provide assistance in rural areas that were receiving less assistance due to the size of the emergency. Our team worked very hard to complete assessments – which meant travelling days in some instances to reach everyone – and prioritizing life-saving assistance like health care, water and food. I felt I couldn’t do enough, and I managed it by continually talking to people about why we are prioritizing life-saving assistance first, and making sure our teams came back to provide other assistance after.

What does it feel like to wear your Red Cross vest in other countries?

Chiran: I feel humbled and proud to wear my Red Cross vest in other countries. I know the vest and emblem comes with respect and I feel the responsibility – to people affected by disasters, to local partners, to friends and family back home.

Sabrina: It feels great. The Red Cross/Red Crescent symbol is such a recognized symbol of assistance that people know they can safely come to you for help.

Nicole: I’m proud every time I put on my Red Cross vest and stand together with colleagues and volunteers from other Red Cross Societies to help people affected by disasters. I know that together we’re making a real difference in people’s lives.