My internship at the Red Cross ended a few weeks ago. Although I’m back at Brandeis, I still think about my internship a lot and still keep in contact with the Red Cross. As I reflect on this summer, I feel so grateful and honored to have worked with the Red Cross because it is a premier organization that has the ability to respond to many different crises at the same time. The ability to help out and respond is not something that every organization has the funds or volunteers for, so I feel very privileged that I had the opportunity to work and learn in the Red Cross.
A picture of the note I left the Red Cross before leaving. I also gave everyone a thank you card!
Before starting the internship, one of my main goals was to gain a deeper understanding of social justice issues in Puerto Rico because I felt that I had learned a lot about social justice issues in America, which is very different than my island. I think the direct field work that I did with the Red Cross, like going into low-income communities and installing smoke alarms, really allowed me to dive into some social justice issues in Puerto Rico. However, I understand that there are many more complex issues in Puerto Rico that I didn’t get the chance to tackle and understand. I’m also struggling to bring these learnings back to Brandeis, in other words, how do we continue doingthe work we did during our internships?What are ways to still be an activist,while also a student, besides joining a club?
Picture of a volunteer at an outreach event we held at a shopping mall!
I have been thinking about how different or similar my internship experience would have been at an American Red Cross chapter not in Puerto Rico. For example, I felt very close to all the fellow interns and to my supervisors as well as the employees in the organization. We all had lunch together every day and joked between breaks. Since we shared a culture, we could all relate to each other and find humor in similar things. It’s also important to note that the work we did was mostly based in Puerto Rico, and so we were helping our people and that allowed us to get closer. I wonder how this “work community” would have been different in another area with people from a different culture. I’m also thinking about what makes us feel close to other people, especially in a work setting that can be draining at times since we are constantly helping others and responding to disasters. Would I still feel a “work community” if I had worked in the marketing department, for example?
I think the best part about my internship at the Red Cross is that I’m still thinking about it and probably will for a long time because it raised a lot of questions for me (as explained above)! While I still keep in touch with the organization and the friends I made, I want to volunteer there whenever I go back home. As cliche as it sounds, when you are doing important work and you are part of a community, you make a world a better place and you become a better person. This is something that I’ve also incorporated in my work as an activist at Brandeis. Here’s to many more wonderful and social justice focused summers!
Last time I wrote here, the Red Cross was responding to the Orlando shooting back in June. After a couple of weeks, the office slowed down and went back to the original environment, busy but not stressful! We had a lot of home fire prevention campaigns and even more pillowcase talks. In case you have forgotten, the fire prevention campaigns seek to prevent home fires by going into communities, usually low-income communities, and installing smoke alarms. We team up in groups of two or three people and go house to house saying that we are from the Red Cross and that as part of our home fire prevention campaigns we are installing smoke alarms. While a volunteer gathers the information of the person we are helping, another installs the smoke alarm. These campaigns are extremely helpful and important because it allows the Red Cross to do the outreach and help people that may not be able to leave their communities and seek the Red Cross. By going into people’s home, we make sure that our services are being offered and utilized by the community. While the pillowcase talks are about disaster prevention geared towards young kids from second to sixth grade. The talks are called this because we give the kids a pillowcase where they can put important things such as water, food, emergency contacts etc in case of an emergency. Being part of presenting the talks has been one of my favorite parts of my internship because I really enjoy interacting with young kids.
Very tired after a home fire prevention campaign in Salinas, Puerto Rico!
One of the homes I went to in the fire prevention campaign had tons of chickens!
Here are just some.
These events happened in towns outside of the capital, which is really good because it shows that the Red Cross is helping people throughout the island and not just in the capital. It also shows that volunteering is very important because these programs cannot be done without the work of volunteers. With their help, the Red Cross has the capacity to offer its services all around.
Last week, we had a lot of rain that caused floods. Although this type of disaster is more common from August-November because of hurricane season, it was a great privilegeto be part of the response team of the Red Cross. I am sad that I wont be in Puerto Rico during hurricane season to see more of the disaster response. How would you participate in it?
One thing I’ve noticed about the people that work in the Red Cross Puerto Rico chapter is that they know how to manage stress and emergencies. While I understand that this is part of their job, it’s a quality that I really admire and have tried to gain. I’ve never seen anyone yell, or shut someone out because they are too busy. The Red Cross staff is always looking for volunteers and extra help and will take the time to explain things. It’s also been really good to be part of this department because I’m learning how to apply this to my own life. If something happens, you have to respond and not spend time over thinking or getting stressed out. It’s also been very interesting to be in this environment because most of the people who work here are women (there are only two men). Generally, women tend to get more stressed out but it’s been very refreshing and eye opening to see women handling disaster situations. I feel very empowered to have such great role models.
I’m grateful for this opportunity and hope that the good work continues!
This is almost my third week at the American Red Cross Puerto Rico Chapter. Every day here is different because the organization’s work is heavily influenced by what happens in the world. Right now, we have been sending volunteers to Orlando to help at the Mental Health Department of the Red Cross. Since 23 of the victims were Puerto Ricans, we are also establishing support services in the island. The fact that I’m working with such an active organization is a privilege. We have also been sending volunteers to Texas, where there are heavy floods and people have been moved to refuges. Although I don’t go on these trips, I have the opportunity to see how these activities are planned and interact with the volunteers that are sent.
I mostly work under Disaster Relief Department but some days I help out with other departments such as the Volunteer Services. In the disaster department, I am in charge of managing a Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, which means that I am in charge of planning and implementing the program. Through this, I have also begun training to become a “Pillowcase Presenter”. The Pillowcase Project is a “preparedness education program for children in grades 3 – 5, which teaches students about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills” (Red Cross website). I have had the opportunity to attend these talks and I’m excited to be given the opportunity of presenting a talk soon.
The first day of my internship, I had the opportunity to attend a symposium on volunteering in Puerto Rico. They talked about making volunteers feel useful and important. I think this applies to internships as well, and I have felt very useful and important at the Red Cross so far. Moreover, I have gained a new perspective on running an organization like the Red Cross. They are an amazing and well-respected organization, but this is because of the work and dedication of the employees. The employees get here at 8 am and try to leave by 4:30pm, although most of them stay way past that. The “work environment” is also very friendly, from people constantly offering me coffee in the mornings to everyone knowing my name since my first day, and every day we all have lunch together.
Needless to say, I’m learning a lot from a business perspective, but also gaining tons of administrative and logistical skills that I didn’t have before. I’m also learning a lot about disaster management, which is very unique but important. I’m excited to see how the following weeks unfold, and I’m excited to have such an unpredictable but amazing internship opportunity thanks to the WOW fellowship.