By Ashley Henyan, Los Angeles Region Digital Communications Manager

 On January 22, four months and 40 pounds after heading off to Puerto Rico to assist with Red Cross Hurricane Maria relief efforts, Rudolph Secundino returned to the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. As it turns out, his physical appearance was not the only part of himself that changed. After a Red Cross deployment of such length, Rudy became a brand new man!

Witnessing life-threatening conditions, extreme devastation and acts of desperation paralleled with an abundance of unity, kindness and trust transforms a person. For Rudy, it began the moment he landed on the Island of Puerto Rico, and the experiences he had will forever remind him of exactly what it means to care.

Ever since he lived through the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, Rudy’s goal was to become a Red Cross volunteer. So, from the beginning of his Hurricane Maria deployment, he decided he would stay and help for as long as he possibly could. After all, this was the moment he had been waiting for, the perfect opportunity to give back to others during their greatest time of need— just like the kind Red Cross volunteers had done for his friends and relatives after the Northridge Earthquake.

While making his time on the ground count, Rudy allowed for brief time-outs, to take in the sights and sounds that encompass such a massive relief effort.

Rudy with Red Cross volunteers, only a few weeks into his four month deployment.


Rudy’s Puerto Rico Tour

It is not often a civilian gets to ride around a tropical island in military vehicles. But, while in Puerto Rico, this became a common occurrence for Rudy and his team. The majority of his days consisted of distributing food, water and supplies from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. at any of 100 locations across the island.

Gil’s home, taken before Hurricane Maria.

Gil, Truck Driver and Good Samaritan

There was little access to Emergency Response Vehicles in Puerto Rico. Because of this, Red Cross workers, like Rudy, depended on the support of kind-hearted locals. Gil was one of these locals. His home was completely destroyed in the storm. Still, he contributed his truck and his truck driving skills to navigate the island—Red Cross volunteers in tow—and help distribute food, water and supplies. Since GPS and other connective technologies were not working after the storm, people like Gil became essential to the Red Cross helping others survive.

Gil’s home, after the storm.

 A United Front

Perhaps most remarkable, the amazing collaboration between the Red Cross and the government, the first responders, the military and other humanitarian organizations. It is often said that large-scale disasters present a situation too massive for any one organization to handle. According to Rudy,

the collaboration and trust among various organizations with the Red Cross was an uplifting result of a horrific storm.

 Losing Weight, Gaining Clarity

Changing one’s waist size isn’t a guarantee when it comes to deploying with the Red Cross. But, after months of hard work, in hot conditions, with rationed food supplies—it can be a welcomed side-effect. More importantly though, after a four month-long Red Cross deployment, one’s belief in the goodness of humanity is renewed. For Rudy, this was his most welcomed gain!

Rudy, on January 22, back at the Red Cross Los Angeles Region headquarters, in West LA.


The Red Cross depends on volunteers like Rudy to carry out their humanitarian mission. If you’d like to join us, just click here!  


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