My Experience with the American Red Cross
I am an AmeriCorps member in the Service Programs Department at the American Red Cross in Greater New York. My department, run by two paid staff and a team of dedicated volunteers, oversees the Service to the Armed Forces Program, Restoring Family Links Program, and Telephone Reassurance Program. My role is to serve as Outreach Coordinator, and reach out to populations in the Greater New York Area that may be in need of our service.
At the start of my term, I was briefed by my supervisors on a list of challenges that they face. These challenges consisted of identifying ethnic communities in the Greater New York area, and outreaching to organizations and individuals that may benefit from the services we provide. The to-do list—overcoming the challenges—has been my job description.
I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work collaboratively with wonderful supervisors on projects that made a difference in our community. We have been able to reach out to over 75 organizations throughout New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley to share information on the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Service and International Family Tracing Services provided by the Red Cross. We have also been able to move onto other projects in our department such as managing and engaging our Service to the Armed Forces volunteers, finding an efficient system to organize and plan events, and developing relationships with other departments within the Red Cross.
Having an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Service Programs department made all of the difference. Crossing things off the to-do list, and overcoming challenges, has been the most rewarding part of my term thus far, and I’m sure you all feel the same.
Last week, we received a Red Cross Message from a refugee camp in Burundi that was sent to an individual settled here in New York. The message was written in Swahili and in order to deliver the message, we needed to translate it. A Red Cross volunteer, fluent in English and Swahili, was willing to come into the office and decipher the message, before we contacted the intended recipient. When the volunteer came in, my supervisor and I were blessed with an eye opening experience.
Let’s get things done, AmeriCorps! This week will be filled with progress as will the rest of your terms, and second terms for those of you continuing on. I challenge you to remember the purpose of AmeriCorps; get your permanent markers ready, and continue to make a difference in the lives of individuals in our community, nation, and world.
I wish I had an AmeriCorps volunteer to assist me with my finals week to-do list, but because of our hard work, the American Red Cross and thousands of organizations around the country, are in good hands.
Thank you all for the work that you do; I’m proud to be a part of this progressive team!
The volunteer was originally from the Congo and was simply passing through the city on his way to Haiti where he delivered humanitarian work. Before he read the message, he told us that he had utilized our International Tracing Service in the past to initiate a trace on his family, but unfortunately, no information was found.
When he had completed translating the message he stayed for a few minutes to chat about his work in Haiti and around the world. I left the room to get brochures on our service, that he offered to distribute to individuals he met that may be in need.
When I returned, we said our goodbyes to the volunteer, and I noticed my co-worker had a solemn look on her face. After he left, she told me that our volunteer, who had initiated an unsuccessful case was not able to receive information on his wife and six children that he left behind in the Congo.
This situation made me realize that there are some things that are taken out of our control, and some things that, despite efforts made, have not yet been completed. We will work to continue the search for this young man’s family, and provide him with the answers he longs for. This task, a top priority on his to-do list, is one that will take national and international efforts. Every step along the way, an AmeriCorps will be available to help!