By Jarrett Dang, Red Cross LA Summer Intern 2019
Picture this: American Red Cross Los Angeles CEO Jarrett Barrios stands on a stage in front of a backdrop, speaking to a crowd of 50-plus people. It’s a beautiful day in downtown Los Angeles. News cameras roll as Jarrett uses an over-sized pair of scissors on loan from Mayor Eric Garcetti to cut a red ribbon, signifying that the opening of new downtown LA headquarters of the Red Cross. The whole event goes off without a hitch.
Just out of view behind the backdrop on the stage, I sit holding said backdrop to make sure it doesn’t blow over onto the CEO in the middle of the ceremony. A fellow team member snaps a photo, juxtaposing Jarrett speaking in front of the backdrop and me clutching it from behind. We laugh about it afterward.
Holding the backdrop may not have been the most glamorous moment of my internship, but I realized it serves as a fitting metaphor for my work at the Red Cross: I witnessed what goes on behind the scenes at a major humanitarian organization and also got to dig in and do the work myself.
One of the highlights of my internship was serving as the voice of the Red Cross in a real Disaster Response Operation (DRO). In July 2019, the Red Cross responded to the Searles Valley earthquakes that affected parts of Southern California. I served as a Social Media Lead and reported to the bustling Emergency Operations Center in DTLA for my shift. I used Red Cross LA social media accounts to disseminate information about the disaster response such as shelter locations and hours, detail the Red Cross’s work in the area and respond to residents who had questions or concerns. Later, I worked with other members of the Communications Team to gather and write stories based on the experiences of volunteers on the ground in Ridgecrest and Trona, the two cities impacted by the earthquakes.
Serving as a part of the Red Cross’s disaster response team was a great opportunity to live the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering. I felt proud to work alongside volunteers with decades of experience and to see the effects of our work on the impacted communities. Seeing everyone come together to help is why I chose to become a part of the Red Cross.
Before my internship, I had always been interested in the nonprofit sector, but didn’t have a clear picture of what it would be like to work at one. Now, having gotten a feel for the actual work, I’m eager to get into the field and help people who need it the most. Whether I worked on drafting press releases for the media, making calls to recruit disaster workers or writing stories from volunteers in the field, I feel that my work has supported the Red Cross mission and the communities that need our help.
My internship experience has given me many things to consider as I move forward in college and eventually choose my career. Whether I end up working behind the scenes or in front of them, I know one thing for sure: Helping people will be a part of it.
Ready to become a Red Cross intern like Jarrett? Applications are now open for the Red Cross Summer Internship Program. Learn more.