By Americorps member,  Amanda Hidalgo

You know that feeling, when people want to take a picture with you and get you to sign an autograph? Well you’re not alone,  I didn’t either! But, in the last few months, I’ve actually grown accustomed to this type of activity. It’s what I like to call being “Red Cross famous!” And, it’s easy as steps 1-2-3! For starters, definitely wear your Red Cross shirt as much as possible.

As a National Red Cross Corps member, I work under the Preparedness Team (PETs). Working with PETs, I present to a wide range of people on disaster preparedness: adults, senior citizens and teenagers. But, the one group I’ve come to love and enjoy the most is the elementary school students. It is with them that I get to present preparedness education by teaching the Pillowcase Project.

The Pillowcase Project is all about teaching emergency preparedness to children in 3rd-5th grade.  Interacting with these kids always puts a smile on their faces as well as on mine.  Every time I hold up my pillowcase to the crowd the kids are in awe. Their faces light up and they begin to anticipate wanting a pillowcase of their own— to decorate and keep, of course. My absolute favorite part of doing the Pillowcase Project is seeing how each child decorates his or her own pillowcase. They have such imaginations! Where one child may draw a cheetah, another may draw their family.  I’ve found that all the kids have great artistic skills (much better than mine).  My favorite part is that once I am about to wrap up each presentation, most of the students say, “Wait, Miss Amanda, sign my pillowcase!” or “Don’t forget to sign mine!” I tell them, “I am no celebrity, I am just doing my job.” But, how could I say no to a child who wants my awesome autograph, right!? This might sound cheesy but, when I sign each pillowcase I hope it prompts every child to continue being prepared for emergencies and disasters after they go home, and to share with their families the importance of emergency preparedness.

In addition to loving doing Pillowcase Project presentations, working with the Red Cross has also made me more of a team player. I am now better able to communicate with all types of people.  And, when it comes to disaster response and preparedness, I’ve learned how to do hands-on work and I’ve learned how to inspire children who otherwise would’ve been unaware of the importance of emergency preparedness.

Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere. That’s why, as my Americorps experience draws to a close and I think about my future, I hope I can continue educating children about emergency preparedness. My dream is to help build a safer, calmer, more resilient Los Angeles community.  And, if by some chance we ever come across one-another I will be more than happy to autograph your pillowcase too!


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