An American Red Cross volunteer from central Iowa leaves today (Thursday) for a long series of plane trips that’ll eventually take him to Sri Lanka, one of the nations devastated by the weekend tidal wave. Ron Matthews, of Ames, says he’s part of the International Red Cross’ disaster response unit. He’ll be taking part in the coordination of the Red Cross’ services with many other global organizations in the region so their efforts aren’t duplicated and so other services aren’t overlooked. Matthews, a retired Red Cross executive director, says he’s been told to prepare for the most foul conditions.Matthews says he’ll be living in a tent, attending meetings with other relief agency officials but also going out and interviewing people receiving aid, making sure all food, medicine, clothing and other items and services are being distributed fairly. Matthews says he’s been on many disaster recovery efforts but admits it’s hard to mentally ready oneself for the carnage and hardships he’ll soon be seeing first-hand.He says he knows he’s not prepared to experience what he’ll see, just based on what he’s seen on T.V. and through other sources. Matthews says he knows it’ll be a difficult assignment, but it’s one for which he’s long trained. Matthews says he’s part of the team that prepares Red Cross workers to cope with disasters but knows he will be effected just like anyone else. He’ll be gone at least a month. Matthews has spent some 24 years with the Red Cross, either as a volunteer or a paid staffer. Iowans who would like to help financially can call 800-HELP-NOW for a credit card donation, send a check to the local chapter in care of “American Red Cross International Relief Fund,” or log on to www.redcross.org.
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