Hello fellow interns! I thought for this post I would give a little insight into this fabulous organization I’m working for this summer!
We all know the iconic logo of the American Red Cross, an organization synonymous with blood drives, blankets and Clara Barton. Most elementary school kids in the US are taught the historical story of this organization’s founding, which began in Washington DC in 1881 when one passionate nurse was determined to aid a war-stricken United States, whose population at the time consisted of more injured soldiers than abled-bodied ones. Clara’s humanitarian girl-power efforts and 23 years of service led to the development of one of the nation’s premier humanitarian organizations. Their mission statement is as follows:
“The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
Their motto is turn compassion into action, and through the strong network of volunteers, donors and partners they are able to provide support in times of need. As a non-profit organization, the Red Cross relies soley on private donations and grants for its daily funding and functioning. The fundamental principles are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality, all of which are incorporated into every aspect of their work. With over 100 million volunteers and employees nationwide, the Red Cross is part of the world’s largest volunteer network and found in 187 countries. And I’m now one of 100 million!
Today, the supporters, volunteers and employees of the Red Cross provide compassionate care in five critical areas:
- People affected by disasters in America
- Support for members of the military and their families
- Blood collection, processing and distribution
- Health and safety education and training
- International relief and development
My internship primarily falls under the first critical area, and I am working in the Department of Disaster Programs in the Ventura County Chapter of the Central Coast Region of the Southern California Division. There are a lot of divisions. Anyways, I’m working on preparing databases in preparation for large-scale disasters, and the information I’m gathering and compiling will directly aid communities in the event of a disaster. For example, I am working on a database of restaurants the Red Cross has a partnership with in each chapter of the Central Coast region, and this list will allow people to know where they can go for a fixed price and affordable meal during a disaster. While my collection of restaurants doesn’t initially aid anyone, the availability of this resource is essential to providing support. Further, I have sharpened my interpersonal communication skills, for in order to create these agreements I need to communicate with managers and organize an agreement that they will hold to in the event of a disaster.
While interviewing for my position, my now supervisor and I discussed the role of nonprofits in society, and how diverse they must be in their outreach. There is no “one size fits all” solution, and it is impermeable that response are adapted to suit the needs of the community. My supervisor emphasized the point that yes, the Red Cross is a national and global organization that sets ideals and guidelines for each individual chapter, but not every case will be solvable in the same way. She made sure I understood that “you can’t please everyone” and particularly during an emergency. Decisions are made quickly to ensure the majority of the population is covered, and this can lead to variations in performance and results. By keeping in mind their fundamental principles and understanding the basis of their mission, the Red Cross and its volunteers may not respond the same way every time, or the same way every chapter can respond, yet by remembering the sole purpose of helping someone in need, each individual chapter, employee and volunteer can and will provide help and comfort in the face of tragedy.