Gaining More than Experience: My Internship with the Red Cross

By Disaster Cycle Services Intern, Jesus Garcia

My name is Jesus, and I was an intern for the Disaster Cycle Services in the summer of 2017. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I am currently attending Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Early in 2017 I decided that I would apply to summer internships in Los Angeles. At the time, I had broad interests in humanitarian work, health care, and community education. The idea I had in my mind about the American Red Cross was that about “saving lives”, but I did not know much else. So, I did my research on the organization and I realized that it does much more than just save lives. From blood services, to services to the armed forces, to community outreach, the American Red Cross seemed to do it all. I also realized that the organization blended all of my interests together. This ultimately motivated me to apply for the summer internship program, specifically to the Disaster Cycle Services department.

When I received notification that I was accepted to the program I was absolutely thrilled! All that was on my mind at the time was that I would get great field experience for my career and that I would get to add this opportunity to my resume. However, I got much more than that from my summer internship. I learned important things about life, myself, and what it means to be a community.

Even though I was an intern for the Disaster Cycle services, there were so many opportunities for me to get involved in other departments. I was able to volunteer for Community Outreach and International Services. Through all of these activities I was able to see the different things that the American Red Cross does. I also established strong connections and I made great friends that I still talk to today!

I spent most of my time in the Long Beach chapter. Boy, do I have amazing memories. The Red Cross team was so passionate about what they do. Every single person in the office was like a role model to me. There was always a lot going on at the office, but work was fun and the collective action from everyone made the tasks very manageable. Part of what the Disaster Cycle Services department does is help families recover from home fires. So, I learned a lot about casework and how to help these families access support for recovery. I also trained to become a part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT), in which I would be able to go to a site of a disaster and help explain to families what recovery services are offered by the American Red Cross. As a part of DAT I visited a hospital and used my Spanish language skills to communicate with someone who lost everything in a home fire. Learning about what happened to the client’s home and feeling like I was able to help was an incomparable feeling.

I focused most of my energy on planning a Home Fire Campaign with the help of my fellow interns and our supervisors. The Home Fire Campaign was about recruiting volunteers, installing fire alarms in families’ homes, and educating people about earthquake and fire safety. Through this campaign we reached five different cities and installed over 60 alarms in homes! The most rewarding part of this, and of my internship, was going to these families’ homes.

Going to different homes around the Long Beach/Los Angeles area was the best part. As a part of my career I think it is important to understand how families from different backgrounds live. Each family accepted me into their home and made me feel important. When I think of my internship I remember a house I visited and what one of the family members told me. As my fellow volunteers were installing alarms in the home, I was educating the family on what to do in the case of an earthquake or fire. One of the younger girls in the house, about 7 years old, seemed to pay really close attention to everything I was saying. All her other siblings were playing video games or watching television, but this girl stood right in front of me next to her mother and listened to everything I had to say. When I was done and before the Red Cross team left the home, she came up to me and said, “When I grow up I want to be just like you. I want to save lives.”

At first, I did not think too much about what the girl told me. But, as I reflect more and more, her words became more important to my life. When I was her age, I did not have many role models to look up to. I come from an underrepresented cultural background and I did not have many opportunities to learn about what I wanted to be when I grew up. This little girl who I visited, too, was from an ethnic minority group. So, to learn that I was some sort of inspiration to her gave me a sense of purpose. She saw that because I could save lives, she can do it too. It also reminded me of my career goals and how I want to help people from marginalized communities through community education and health care. At the same time that her family viewed me as important, I saw them as important. I came to realize that that is what the Red Cross is all about. It is about building community and creating a world where we all help each other. It is about viewing every human as important and worth saving, no matter what their background is or what their financial resources are. It is about love and compassion. No other internship would have given me that sense of worth or value.

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