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Through the Eyes of a Child
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Jennifer Hawes
May 3, 2007

The eyes of a child are full of innocence, imagination and wonder. One moment a child believes that she is a princess in a fairy tale; the next an astronaut on a space mission chasing aliens. But in moments such as the recent flooding in New Jersey, children see reality as it really is regarding a disaster. It is sad. It is devastating. It is confusing. It is surreal to them and difficult to understand.

Arleen’s thank you note to this Red Cross reporter.
Arleen’s thank you note to this Red Cross reporter.
(Photo credit: Jennifer Hawes)

Five year old Arleen Aunez is a beautiful, bubbly, and intelligent little girl. The basement in Arleen’s home was flooded by Mother Nature’s recent rant, “Mommy put the TV on the table and I saved a bunch of my toys. We ran outside and I was sad and crying. My sparkle horse is my favorite toy and it got all wet. It made me cry”, said Arleen.

Arleen’s family was fortunate that the damage was confined to a small portion of the home, but they still needed to evacuate to a local Red Cross shelter. Arleen said, “We went to the Red Cross and they are my friends. They even gave me a job! My job is to make sure little kids don’t go in the kitchen and that is very important!” She takes her job very job seriously as she guides the younger children to the shelter play area. She rolls her eyes, sighs and says, “These kids make my job so hard and I am tired!”

Arleen says she wants to be a “saver” when she grows up and wants to help people like they helped her. She points at my Red Cross vest, smiles and says, “I want to be just like you!”

This sweet young girl will celebrate her 6th birthday in a few days. When asked what she wanted for her birthday she replied without a thought, “I want to give all the kids who can’t go home all my presents. I have lots of toys, but some kids don’t have any. That makes me very sad and I want to help other kids. I want to be nice.”

As much as Arleen is mature and resilient, she is still a child. As she plays with some of the toys at the shelter she begins reliving the past few days, “Elephant is sad and can’t go home. Giraffe wants to help people. Bear is my friend and she is crying because her mommy’s heart was sick from the water and is in the hospital.”

Arleen says she is afraid to go back to school because she needs to “watch mommy and daddy and make sure they are safe from the water.” She is also upset because she doesn’t have a backpack anymore. She then stops speaking, looks at the kitchen and notices little kids approaching the doors. She looks up and says, “Back to work for me!”

Back to work for Arleen as she deals with this tragedy and moves on to her job of protecting people. Arleen’s family couldn’t be prouder of their daughter and notes, “She’ll bounce back and be just fine.”

As the waters recede and families are moving on or starting over, Arleen says, “I will miss my big friends at the Red Cross but I’m sure we will see them again.”

That is very true; the Red Cross shall return and will continue to assist those in need. The Red Cross is only as strong as its community and with children and people as generous as Arleen, the Red Cross and the future of the Red Cross is stronger than ever.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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