Getting Back What You Give

Getting Back What You Give:
Don Dudley’s Talk on What the Red Cross Can Do for Us

Six years ago, when I started volunteering at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter in San Jose (CA), I imagined I would fulfill some volunteer hours and maybe do some new things along the way. But I never thought that volunteering would put me where I’m currently sitting: flying 35,000 feet above the snow-capped Rocky Mountains on my way back from a National Youth Council meeting in Washington, DC. Yet, as Don Dudley, Interim Executive Director for the Office of the National Chair of Volunteers, pointed out yesterday when he spoke to us, Red Cross volunteering is not just about what you give but what the organization gives you. Sure, it might seem selfish on the surface, but it’s really not. Being part of an organization where we as youth volunteers give our skills and receive opportunities, new skills, and invaluable experiences is one of the things that gets me out of bed three hours before classes to answer e-mails, plan club meetings, and work on a youth involvement workshop that’s two months away.

As Don helped us to discover, we as National Youth Council members — and American Red Cross volunteers — devote ourselves to our voluntary service, bring our expertise and past experiences towards important decisions and projects at National Headquarters, and our passion for the Red Cross. But in return, we’ve received so much: innumerable friendships; personal skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership; practical skills such as being able to work on long-distance projects; support from our wonderful fellow Council members and NHQ staff; and the inspiration to go above and beyond for the organization. Don also helped us to discuss what the Red Cross can give the National Youth Council and, in the larger sense, all its youth volunteers as we look to the future — and the opportunities are endless. We can receive adult mentors from the organization’s leadership and governance networks that have experience in fields we’re interested in (in upcoming months, I’m hopeful that I’ll meet a fellow Red Crosser who’s well-versed in graphic design and marketing, disaster management, or public policy). We can learn more about how to work ourselves into strategic plans, such as the organization’s new ARC-ONE initiative. We can obtain tools that help us to serve more effectively, such as a program I learned about called Microsoft Project that would help us to organize massive endeavors without losing our sanity! We can receive training to help strengthen our own skills in areas such as running effective meetings or building connections with nonprofit and corporate organizations.

As we broke for lunch with the stained glass Tiffany windows of the Board of Governors Hall looking down upon us, I realized that if I hadn’t picked up that volunteer form at my local chapter office back in seventh grade, I wouldn’t have these opportuntiies to build my own skills, my relationships with so many interesting and diverse individuals, and my dedication to such a great organization.

Justin Lam, California
Secretary, National Youth Council

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