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Red Cross chapter set for fall

Fall 2007, brace yourself for a new humanitarian juncture. From the WWI-era to more recent calamities, such as Hurricane Katrina, one organization has overshadowed many in service and compassion: the American Red Cross. Tin Doan, a USF senior, is starting a chapter on campus this fall.

“The standards and expectations ARC holds toward its volunteer base is the most profound aspect of the organization,” Doan said.

Before he was in Red Cross Doan volunteered with the United Way, Hands on Tampa for several years, assisting in projects such as community beautification, reading to children, tutoring, feeding the homeless and other such opportunities.

“These volunteer opportunities were great experience to have,” he said. “Moreover, it didn’t pose a challenge for me. With ARC, the staff and volunteers have a high expectation of you shown through their demand for you to be on top of things, which is especially important for me since I’m going in the Peace Corps next year. You actually gain so much knowledge and leadership skills that you would not acquire from a college job or the classroom.”

The current Tampa Bay chapter of the Red Cross serves Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties through a variety of initiatives, including: Disaster Services, Armed Forces Emergency Aid, Health and Safety Service (HSS) Volunteering, Community Events/Expos, Hospital Volunteers, General Office, International Services (HQ), Presentation Speaking, Youth Program Leadership and the Language Bank. Doan said Red Cross USF aims to encompass all of these initiatives.

Disaster Services focuses on meeting 24 hours a day for immediate disaster-related needs such as basic shelter, food, clothing, health and even mental health services. USF Red Cross volunteers are encouraged to volunteer as shelter workers assigned to Pizzo Elementary.

Within Disaster Services, there are three divisions that volunteers can take part in: Disaster Action Teams (DAT), the Community Disaster Education Program and Disaster Service Human Resources (DSHR). Disaster Action Teams respond to local single and multi-family fires, offering immediate assistance to victims. The Community Disaster Education Program uses trained volunteer speakers to educate the public on disaster preparedness.

Furthermore, Disaster Service Human Resources (DSHR) is a cadre of volunteer disaster workers from Red Cross chapters throughout the United States who choose to work locally, statewide and/or on the national level. They are provided functional, specialized training in the areas of damage assessment, client and health services, shelter work, public affairs, technology support, logistics and mass care.

Doan went through the required classes for the Disaster Action Team and also spoke at engagements for ARC.

“The training was quite interesting, particularly the disaster simulation held in the Sun Dome,” he said. “The ARC had to collaborate with USF, Hillsborough County’s emergency services and Gaither High School, who acted out as victims. I thought that experience was really engaging and educational since I had to put my training to use.”

Doan said he is also part of the Language Bank service at ARC, where he would translate Vietnamese to English for anyone who has to resort to ARC for help. A part of signing up for Disaster Action Team was responding to fire calls.

“So far I have only received one call from ARC to translate for a Vietnamese family who had their house burned down,” he said.

“It’s definitely a rewarding feeling to know that you can help someone in their time of despair, but sometimes it can be emotionally intense too. We all have had our moments when we needed someone there to help us out, and I think any bit helps when a person is in a difficult situation.”

From that experience, Doan said he thinks it is very critical to prepare non-speaking English communities for a disaster. This fall the ARC club is planning to collaborate with USF organizations like the Vietnamese Student Association and Mexican Student Association to prepare a campaign to inform specific communities about disasters, such as a hurricane or fire.

Doan said he thinks the campaign will be one of the most important initiatives this upcoming semester for ARC.

“What do you think students are looking for in American Red Cross Club?” Doan said.

“ARC has 10 different types of services, ranging from disaster services to youth services, and a myriad of positions to fill them with. The reason why American Red Cross is offering such a wide range of services is because ARC sees that USF has a diverse demography of students whose majors encompass everything from pre-med to business. ARC wants to provide students with an opportunity to apply what they learn in school to real life.”

Between these three disaster committees, Red Cross USF will develop a recruiting program to staff a comprehensive shelter team assigned to Pizzo Elementary.

Another upcoming project will appeal to students out of military families. The American Red Cross serves as the 24-hour emergency communications link between members of the armed forces and their families. Caseworkers send emergency messages and provide casework, referrals and a variety of other support activities to help these individuals deal with their respective crisis situation.

Additional opportunities include presentations titled “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” by a local National Guard and reserve members and their families that educate on various areas of support available to them. Red Cross USF plans to develop a support project for seriously wounded military members from service in Iraq at the James Haley VA Hospital.

The first meeting will be held on Sept. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Marshall Center.

Orientations and classes for ARC are scheduled by demand. “Fulfilling Our Mission,” “CPR/First Aid,” “DAT orientation,” “Public Affairs” and “Psychological First Aid,” among others, will be available upon individual request. There are also online classes available at Redcross.org for students to acquire volunteer hours.