Youth Spotlight: Paolo Martinez

Youth Spotlight: Paolo Martinez, Braving the Floods

5AM mornings. 20 hour work days. Saving a man’s life. It’s all tough work – work that some may never even experience in their lifetime, but for Paolo Martinez, helping others through his work has always been such a fulfilling feeling.

Paolo joined the Red Cross as an Event Based Volunteer (EBV) during the Tax Day Floods, when schools were closed. He came in to help with staff services, aiding with call downs for shelters and Spanish translation. From that summer on, his work with the Red Cross took off. Last school year, he founded the Red Cross Club at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, where he engages other youth and urges them to respond to disasters as well. In the fall of 2016, he became a screener, working in the Greater Houston Area’s Office of Volunteer Services. He was also selected to be the Communications Chair for the Texas Gulf Coast Region’s Youth Service Council (YSC) – a board of youth that oversees and advocates for the Texas Gulf Coast’s youth volunteers. Late this summer, he put all three of his volunteer roles to good use in the face of the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.

When the Red Cross’ main efforts were to coordinate for youth to come in, I was sending out emails promoting youth volunteering as the YSC’s Communications Chair. ” Martinez said. “As president, I was getting my club to come in too, because the main goal for my club is for it to be a disaster relief service club and to respond in times like this. As a screener, I have administrative access, so I was able to quickly input volunteers [in our system], get them screened, and turn EBVs into general volunteers after they get the training they need.”

Hurricane Harvey hit South Texas hard, but through all the struggle, there is still hope in the strength of community. “Working in a shelter has opened my eyes to all walks of life. It’s been great,” Martinez said. “In fact, I got to know a few people from Hawaii Red Cross. Yesterday, as I was leaving George R. Brown Convention Center and right before I was going to say goodbye to them, the National Guard alerted us that there was a man down. One of the Hawaii Red Cross volunteers was a paramedic, so we took care of this man who had overdosed on heroin. We kept him stable for 20 minutes until the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) could show up.”

“I want to join the fire department in the future, so I [had] taken an Emergency Medical Technician [EMT] Basics of Emergency Medicine Training with CASEY Fire Ops. I never thought that I would ever be able to use it, but yesterday I actually knew how to stabilize [the OD patient’s] head until EMS arrived.”

“A big thing is to be there during blue skies, to be there even when we’re not in disaster.”

As a relatively-new Red Cross volunteer, only having joined in 2015, Paolo has already accomplished so much and made such a huge impact in our community. When asked for a tip that he has for other volunteers interested in disaster services, he suggested, “to be there during blue skies, to be there even when we’re not in disaster. Just come in and help out as much as you can. Get involved in your community. Meet as many people as you can.” He also strongly recommended to “take classes on EDGE. Take as many courses as you can and absorb as much information as you can because that makes you more presentable and reliable during disasters.” EDGE is the American Red Cross’ Learning Management System, which is currently used by Disaster Services volunteers and staff for training. As a Red Cross volunteer, you can take and self-learn all these courses for completely free.

Thank you so much for your service Paolo, and we wish you the best of luck in your Red Cross journey.

– Angela Liu, National Youth Council member, RCYO and YouthWire Editor

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