In my experience, everyone has a place at the Red Cross, whether they are reserved or outspoken, good with tools or tech-savvy, retired or just starting their career. All it takes to find your place at the American Red Cross is to discover the area in which you fit. After about 6 years, I am still exploring all the levels of the organization in an effort to discover where I fit best. Throughout my Red Cross volunteer journey, I have moved from volunteering at a local level at the Greater Long Beach Chapter to the regional level at the Los Angeles Region to my internship now at National Headquarters in Washington, DC. This experience has showed me some of the similarities and differences in how the American Red Cross functions at all levels, as well as how I can fit into a different role at each. My experience has allowed me to reflect specifically on the differences in the IHL Action Campaign at all three levels.
I have been involved with the IHL Action Campaign for quite some time. Originally a team leader on the Segerstrom High School team from the Desert to the Sea Region, I decided to take the program to the Los Angeles Region as Program Coordinator for 4 teams (including the winning North High School) this past year. Taking on this position meant that I transitioned from being a local to regional volunteer. Here are some of the changes that I noticed as I took on this different role.
Local to Regional Level
By becoming a regional volunteer, I was able to recruit IHL Action Campaign participants from a wider geographical area than I could as a volunteer at my local Chapter. This role also connected me to a more diverse group of Red Cross volunteers to ensure stronger success for the project. For example, I was able to recruit among at least 50 more colleges, universities, and high schools to eventually establish the most qualified and passionate teams due to the regionalization of the campaign.
Additionally, I was able to involve Red Cross staff and volunteers with very different expertise in the IHL Action Campaign leadership committee. This included 3 specialists in social media and publicity, which allowed us to reach hundreds of Red Crossers through our blogs and social media accounts, and 2 experts in International Services, who helped us find guest speakers for trainings and held a Born on the Battlefield class for IHL Action Campaign participants. The success of our leadership committee is partially due to the fact that we were able to pull specialized people from all over the Los Angeles Region.
Regional Level to National Level
Because of my involvement in the IHL Action Campaign in the Los Angeles Region, I was able to obtain an internship at National Headquarters with the IHL team. I have observed that there is definitely more behind-the-scenes and specialized work at National Headquarters versus at the regional or local levels.
In the Los Angeles Region, I was involved in an extremely varied number of tasks, including driving youth to events, participating in Shelter Drills, holding Safe Kids classes and Veteran’s History Project (VHP) trainings, and completing data entry for Blood Services. However, at National Headquarters, my work is more specialized in public education for the IHL team, which entails creating impact reports, developing publicity infographics and editing activity guides and manuals for the Chapters to use locally. Both sets of activities are extremely important, but regional volunteers definitely deal more directly with the community while National Headquarters staff do more of the logistical work and less often see the direct fruits of their labor. However, I did get to attend the 2015 Youth Leadership Summit as a National Headquarters intern, which was an opportunity for staff here in DC to interact directly with IHL Action Campaign participants.
As I said earlier, your place in the Red Cross largely depends on your interests, strengths, geographical location, and desired work environment. Even though it may take time to find your favorite area in the Red Cross, I definitely know that there is a place for everyone, and I have enjoyed all of my different roles within the American Red Cross.
Author – Hetal Shah, Public Education Intern