A Personal Story
The Red Cross is such a large organization that you sometimes question the impact that you can make as an individual. Can we really be the change we wish to see in the world or do we just get lost in a crowd of hope and ideals? Well, I have been struggling with this question since my freshman year in high school. I am now a sophomore in college, and in the last six years, I have taken a much more optimistic view on the world and my role in it.
My experience with the Red Cross at my local chapter was originally limited to office work and secretarial tasks. I was so interested in learning how the unit ran that this was not as boring as you might originally think. I am not going to say that it was particularly exciting, but I met some great staff at my chapter who will hopefully be my lifelong friends and mentors. I was also exposed to the mission and values of the Red Cross that have guided this organization since its founding. Along the way, I was given a series of opportunities to challenge myself as a person. My volunteer manager—since my chapter did not have an established youth department yet—helped me break out of my shell and explore my leadership potential.
Before becoming a Red Cross volunteer, I was a very shy and soft-spoken individual. Anyone who knows me now, will laugh at that previous sentence. Anna Gail Caunca, the creator of my chapter’s Youth Services Department and a former Advisor for the National Youth Council, encouraged me to teach Basic Aid Training and Scrubby Bear classes to local youth. At first, I was hesitant at the prospect of teaching preschoolers how to wash their hands and Boy Scouts how to wrap gauze around their injuries. The former sounded unexciting and the latter sounded dangerous. Boy Scouts were a lot to handle!
Well, it turned out to be one of the most rewarding roles I played as a volunteer for my chapter. I am an analytical person. I like to make measurable differences in my community. The direct connection that I had with the kids that I was teaching was just what I needed to get excited about the Red Cross. This passion only grew as my responsibilities within my chapter increased. I slowly was asked to take the next step, to plan a day of basic aid training for children in our underserved community (KID POWER!). The logistics of planning this event drove me crazy! I had to manage the publicity, registration, and curriculum of this event with a committee. But with all the frustrations of planning, came the joy of seeing the event executed successfully. I did not define success by the number of volunteers who helped out. Or by the number of children who showed up. I defined it by the size of the smiles that I saw on the children’s faces as they went through the fire maze. I defined it by the pleased look on their parents’ faces as they picked their children up. But most importantly, I defined it by the smile that was brought to my face by a child telling his mom that they needed to build a kit and make a plan.
So, each person…each volunteer does indeed make a contribution to the Red Cross’ humanitarian efforts. The organization has an amazing volunteer base that helps it run like a well-oiled machine. However, when I think about the Red Cross, I have a completely different perspective of the organization. Instead of asking the question of what I have done for my community through the Red Cross, I am asking the question of what the Red Cross has done for me as a volunteer. And that’s why I continue to volunteer for the Red Cross, even when I am not directly in Haiti helping give people the resources they need to overcome such a horrible disaster. Instead, I am sitting at my desk telling my friends and peers to donate to the cause through the Red Cross’ texting campaign.
Just yesterday, I was told by a professor in my mechanical engineering class to “zoom out and look at the big picture.” Sometimes I lose sight of that and get too bogged down in the details. Everything we do for the Red Cross matters. Some of our roles and tasks just have more direct and immediate results than others. But you do matter as a volunteer and I personally thank you for caring so much about an organization with such a meaningful mission and amazing volunteers and staff! Keep up the good work and swap your stories with me.
Swetha, Stanford, CA