I sat down in a slightly lopsided circle, listening to all those around me. There were 30 people in the room, and each of them had a story to tell. It started with a 50- year-old woman; her family had lost everything in Hurricane Sandy, and in that dark time, they had helped her. Next was a man with dark hair and tan skin; his neighbor’s house had burned down in a fire. And again, they had helped his neighbors in their time of need. Now, as you may be wondering, who exactly are “they”? Well, I am talking about the Red Cross, and this is my experience volunteering there.
We were gathered at the Red Cross for a volunteer orientation. My friend, Aleyna, had convinced me to volunteer with her, and she sat beside me in the orientation room as each person said why they wanted to volunteer for the Red Cross. Everyone had a touching story about how they wanted to give back to the organization that gave them so much. After hearing their stories about how the Red Cross had touched so many lives, I knew that I wanted to be there; I wanted to volunteer and make a difference.
After orientation I went to special training to be a biomedical volunteer. There are two jobs a biomedical volunteer can do: canteen and registration. For canteen, I have to greet the blood donors at a blood drive after they have given their blood. I get them to sit down and give them food and drinks. I engage with the people; I ask them how long they’ve been giving blood, why they started, and about their lives. Each time I am able to hear new anecdotes, learn something interesting about the world, and receive advice that really helps me. It’s interesting meeting the people who have come to donate blood to help others (including Mr. Culp!).
Then, there is registration. For registration, I sit at a desk and help people sign in for blood donation appointments. This only takes about a minute. Around 10 people come in every hour and when I’m not helping the donors, I get to watch Key&Peele or Criminal Minds on the TV in front of the desk. Sometimes I bring homework or a book to read in the downtime instead.
The Red Cross is run 96% by volunteer work. As an international organization that spans over 180 countries, that’s insane. They need volunteers so that the funds they receive can go to people who need them, instead of having to pay a large workforce. I love volunteering. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you have helped save the lives of others, albeit indirectly, through volunteering. Volunteering for the Red Cross is a great experience for teens and adults alike, as well as a very easy way to give back. I get to choose when I volunteer (Wednesdays 5pm-7pm and Saturdays 9:30am-1:30pm), and how often I volunteer. It’s stress free. I enjoy it so much that since August I have volunteered for 60 hours at the Red Cross.
Are you interested in volunteering for the Red Cross? Visit www.redcross.org or call (518) 694-5103 for more information.