In the beginning of my sophomore year, I joined Bayside High School’s newly founded American Red Cross club with high hopes of creating a better tomorrow. By our second general club meeting, the club had gathered a group of volunteers to respond to the residents of Rockaway Beach after the devastating events of Hurricane Sandy. As a new youth volunteer with little experience as a disaster responder or as a Red Cross club member, I had no idea what I was about to see in person. I watched numerous incidents during the hurricane on television, but none of those visuals could compare to the grim and brutal aftermath I witnessed first-hand. The homes near the beach were erased or ripped apart with food still sitting on their tables, the beach sand swallowed the ends of the streets and found its way into residents’ basements, and the debris of furniture, children’s toys, and other personal belongings amassed in hills all around. I could hardly dream of experiencing such a misfortunate struggle, but after a morning’s and afternoon’s effort to remove wreckage from people’s homes, the hope in the residents’ smiles gave a beat to my heart. On that day, I learned about the meaning of “alleviating human suffering” and that the Red Cross was a perfect fit for me. This experience inspired me to want to explore more about what I could do for the club and for the American Red Cross.
During my junior year as Secretary of the club, I participated and became familiar with the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Action Campaign. With class teach-ins, social media outreach, informative bake sales, and pure passion into raising and spreading awareness about child soldiers as components of our campaign, we were appreciative when invited to visit Washington, DC in 2014 to experience other schools’ campaigns. Visiting the Red Cross Headquarters and simply being with my team made me recognize that I was a part of something amazing. Again, I felt that I had made a difference in creating that hope I wished to see. In the following year, I became External President, which allowed me to coordinate and execute my own IHL Action Campaign, manage my own external club affairs and school events, and expand the influence of the American Red Cross in my school and community. Throughout my senior year, my club engaged in other activities such as the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign at the Bronx Install, the Vaccinate a Village – Measles and Rubella Initiative, the Mail for Heroes, the Night for Nepal, and the IHL Action Campaign.
With this past year’s IHL Action Campaign, we decided to raise and spread awareness for refugees with similar strategies implemented the previous year, but this time we wanted to focus on refugees among us. Throughout my club’s IHL Action Campaign, we made clear that friends, family, or even teachers within our community were refugees, which in turn made the topic more relevant. The product of the campaign was a success as we were given the Honorable Mention Award for our efforts. Of course, when high school ended, I couldn’t end my Red Cross career there, so after I graduated from high school, I joined Stony Brook University’s American Red Cross Club to continue my experiences as an adult volunteer. For me, I enjoyed every second of being a part of the Red Cross in high school and I will definitely enjoy starting fresh again here at Stony Brook University.
Author: Dennis Ahn, American Red Cross club member, Stony Brook University