Thursday, March 11, 2010

I get an email calling for volunteers (for Red Cross and others); my own experience in 2005

I received an email from Barbs Chandrasoma from “PR By the Book” (that is, Public Relations by the Book, link). From the context of the email, I think she wanted me to pass it along in this blog. I really can’t reword it more effectively, so here is how she presents the proposal.

“I have a timely story idea for you.

“March is American Red Cross Month, a time to support the American Red Cross for all of their selfless humanitarian work.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 26 percent of Americans are getting off the couch to help out. With the earthquakes occurring in Haiti and Chile, organizations like the American Red Cross need help now more than ever.

“This month, let’s inspire volunteerism across America. We have two experts to offer for interview. Debbie Jordan and Hoy Kersh are available to speak about how they have dedicated their lives to helping others and how others can do the same.

“Hoy Kersh wrote Suitcase Full of Dreams to chronicle the struggles and hardships she faced while growing up in the segregated South in the 1940s and early 50s. She is versed in overcoming adversity and promoting healthy living. Instead of allowing daily discrimination and the murder of her grandfather silence her, Kersh decided to speak out for the equal treatment she knew she deserved. Kersh resides in Northern California and works to inspire students at a rural Pacific Northwest school to stand up for what they believe. From teaching adults in Jamaica to read and write to promoting peace and prosperity to all, Kersh has truly dedicated her life to helping those in need of a helping hand.
Sample interview Topics:
• Why it is important to volunteer for organizations like the Red Cross today
• How difficult childhoods can inspire people to think of others in need
• How an individual can make a difference in many people’s lives even though it seems impossible.

“Debbie Jordan’s book, "The World I Imagine: A Creative Manual for Ending Poverty and Building Peace" is a collection of 47 essays originating in the column she writes for the Arizona City Independent Edition. Jordan writes about her solutions to some of the world’s most detrimental social issues. Jordan is committed to inspiring others to improve the world through community involvement and volunteerism.

“Sample discussion Topics:
• How volunteering should be an activity that is a part of everyone’s lives.
• How volunteering changed Jodan’s life and molded her into the person she is today
• How devastating events like the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti should not be the only times people get involved in their communities

“Please let me know if you are interested in scheduling an interview.

“Thank you,
Babs Chandrasoma, PR by the Book “


When he was campaigning for president, especially during the Democratic primaries in 200, Barack Obama did mention volunteerism. He told commencement graduates “I hope you will.”

I volunteered at the Red Cross call center near Falls Church, VA on Rt. 50 in September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes I would reach a client with severe medical problems and connect the person with a nurse. But most of the time I got calls from people who were trying to get assistance from FEMA. We passed along an 800 number for FEMA assistance, but most clients were on hold for hours getting in touch with a human being. There was very little we could do. Volunteers were well fed with buffet food.

Churches have organized bus trips of volunteers to New Orleans or other Gulf areas to do cleanup and reconstruction. In some cases, volunteers have not been allowed inside flooded houses because of mold damage. There is a good question as to whether manufactured housing can meet real needs more quickly.

Churches have also sponsored volunteer trips to construct missions or clinics in areas like Nicaragua or Belize, or water projects in Guatemala.

In time, I would expect trips to be organized to Haiti and Chile, but these would be complicated to set up.

Second picture: Bay St. Louis, MS, personal trip, Feb. 2006

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