Red Cross is seeking bilingual aid
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 5, 2004 12:00 AM

Katie Nelson

Reaching out means reaching across language barriers for the Red Cross.

But finding bilingual volunteers to work with the Valley's Red Cross Grand
Canyon chapter can be difficult, organization leaders say.

Many of those in Arizona who receive Red Cross disaster assistance - food,
clothing, shelter - are victims of house and apartment fires or victims of
domestic violence. Of the 2,607 disaster victims the chapter served last
year, about one in every 20 used a language other than English to
communicate, said Stanley Brown, associate director of disaster services.

"A time of crisis is when nobody is functioning at their full capacity, say
if their house or apartment has just been burned down," Brown said. "It's a
time of high emotion, which makes communication . . . a challenge."

There have been times when volunteers show up at a scene to offer Red Cross
help, and they haven't initially been able to do so because of a language
barrier, said Gary Ashkenazy, disaster relief specialist.

He says volunteers "are forced to turn to the children. And when you're
dealing with some weighty issues and decisions, and you have to rely on a
10-year-old to relay that to their parents, that's difficult."

The Grand Canyon chapter serves 80 percent of Arizonans with immediate and
follow-up services. About 2,000 volunteers make up nearly the entire
workforce. Of those, about one-third speak a second language.

The agency lists American Sign Language, Spanish, French, Arabic, Swahili
and Hindi, along with 50 other languages among its capabilities. But the
need for more bilingual speakers is still pressing, Ashkenazy said.

For information about how to volunteer in Maricopa, Apache, Coconino, Gila,
La Paz, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties, call Red Cross
Volunteer Resources at (602) 336-6497 or go to