By CA Safe Corps AmeriCorps member, Jazmine Cureno
My journey with the American Red Cross started as a general volunteer in Ventura County; but now, I am proud to be one of the California Safe Corps AmeriCorps team members serving the Los Angeles Region out of the Long Beach office!
Working as an AmeriCorps member with the Red Cross has definitely tested my ability to adapt. This is mainly because disasters don’t have a schedule or happen at anyone’s convenience. Emergencies and disasters occur at any time! At any point, an ordinary day at work can turn into a Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation. Because of this, as a Redcrosser, I have learned to always expect the unexpected.
A perfect example of this happened a few weeks ago, during the time when severe winter storms with heavy rains poured down on Los Angeles. The severe weather caused many homes to flood and, with this flooding came many residents who were displaced and in need of a safe place to go. In response to the severe weather and emergency evacuations throughout the Los Angeles region, the Red Cross had only a moment’s notice to open shelters for the communities most heavily affected by the storms. In fact, it had yet to reach lunch-time when I was given the news: I would be working the night shift at an American Red Cross shelter!
Although this circumstance was as unforeseen as my commitment to help out, it gave me a unique opportunity to work alongside my AmeriCorps team in a new and very different setting. We worked together to set up cots, prepare food, and offer comfort and care to anyone affected by the heavy rains and flooding. In fact, there were even warnings that possible mudslides might occur in the burn areas that had already been devastated by this summer’s wildfires. To think these people had to go through something like that again touched my heart. I really wanted to do all that I could to make a difference and help everyone in need.
Even though it was physically draining, working the night shift in an American Red Cross shelter was emotionally fulfilling. In fact every operations experience, just like working in the shelter, has provided me an opportunity to get to know my co-workers in a more personal way, sharpen my skills and knowledge of Red Cross protocol for disaster response, and most importantly, lend my services to those in need.