Formerly a student at Woodland Community College, Pedro Medina heard about the devastation hurricane Katrina left behind, and he knew he had to do something.
“I didn’t have any plans and school wasn’t to start for another month or so, so I decided I had to help,” said Medina. “There was no excuse for me not to volunteer.”
Now attending UC Davis, Medina found his niche as the Community Service Coordinator of the 2005 pledge class for university’s chapter of the national, Latin-based fraternity, Nu Alpha Kappa.
While social clubs on campuses host blood and bone marrow drives, Medina hopes to expand the chain reaction of helping others and incorporate students who aren’t members of clubs in activities like these. Medina’s colleagues have also helped with ideas, like a Spare Change for a Change drive where spare coins are collected and given to the Red Cross.
According to the Red Cross, clothes and goods are to be given to “local charitable organizations within your own community. Donating locally eliminates transportation costs and ensures disaster workers are not overwhelmed with sorting unsolicited donations and are free to perform priority relief activities.”At the Woodland chapter of the American Red Cross, Medina filled out the application for volunteering and completed an interview, to screen what the organization calls in-kind donations, which are goods and services. He requested to be sent to Louisiana.
With the help of the Red Cross he arranged a flight and within 24 hours he was in Texas. In seven days he traveled to Houston, Texas; Rayne, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
As one of the nightshift supervisors of the Cajun Dome in Louisiana, Medina was exposed to a number of problems volunteers were facing. While traveling to shelters during the day and sleeping very few hours, he made an effort to stay with the people, sleeping alongside the survivors of Katrina. His main focus was to determine what the survivors of Hurricane Katrina really needed, how they felt and what he could do to help them.
As Medina explained the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina, he stressed, “Because there weren’t enough volunteers in the beginning, we were seriously understaffed for what we needed to accomplish.” Medina added, “This made some of the volunteers feel overwhelmed and certainly added undue stress.”
Because he was one of five Spanish speaking volunteers at the Cajun Dome, Medina has taken care in developing ideas of recruiting a more culturally diverse volunteer group. Several Woodland Community College students were asked whether they had thought about volunteering at any time since Hurricane Katrina.
While many said they had considered it, every person asked shook their heads while saying they did not, or could not volunteer. Their explanations were: school, work, and no free time. One student even said, “I want to help – I just need more time so I feel I’m really making a difference.”
In response to students’ inquiries of ways to help, a doctor with Sutter Health Care stated that CPR training is useful in any situation. “If every person knew one good and useful thing to do in case of an emergency,” said the doctor, “whether it is how to perform the Heimlich or take someone’s pulse, it makes a difference. Every little bit makes a difference.”
One of Medina’s plans is to provide future mandatory CPR certification for his fraternity’s pledge brothers and be certified as a bilingual instructor. As Medina said, even taking a CPR class helps the United States during these natural disasters.
Many American students are turning down opportunities to help because they think it is beyond them, that they are too swamped to do anything productive. Students worry their school work will suffer once they volunteer because they believe they will have to go to New Orleans.
However, students can help by doing things that take a minimal amount of time out of their schedule, like licking envelopes, donating clothes, furniture and other items or simply sparing a few dollars for the donation tubs outside of grocery stores. Other suggestions for ways citizens with limited free time can help can be found by visiting the American Red Cross’s website, www.AmericanRedCross.org.
Volunteering for the American Red Cross is something students, teachers and all citizens can do to make a difference. Whether they are helping starving children in Africa, or localizing efforts within the United States, the American Red Cross is always in need of people willing to volunteer their man power, knowledge, craft and time to helping out our fellow man.