Story by Reihaneh Hajibeigi, Executive Coordinator, Austin, Texas
The siren call of the American Red Cross has its own unique enticing tune to each individual, and the path it paves throughout their journey is a story in its own. After nearly 16 years of service, San Antonio-based volunteer, Marco Banda, still elicits awed responses of “Wow – you do that too” from staff and volunteers alike.
Marco has served the American Red Cross in a multitude of ways including as a First Aid and AED/CPR instructor, a board member for the Greater San Antonio Chapter and a lead disaster volunteer supervising shelters all across the Central and South Texas Region. He has also created innovative courses for staff and volunteers such as “Spanish in Disasters.”
Yet, Marco has had the Red Cross mission running through his blood long before he ever moved to Texas. In 1988, Marco started his journey with the Mexican Red Cross by learning first aid basics for first responders and continued assisting his community as a first responder, as a member of the water rescue team, and as a paramedic.
When Marco moved to the United States in the late 1990s, he didn’t miss a step and joined the American Red Cross Serving Greater San Antonio. He began in Preparedness Health and Safety and quickly transitioned into disaster services helping the chapter build a presence in Spanish-speaking communities. Then, in February 2015, Marco became a Restoring Family Links caseworker investigating reconnection cases for the San Antonio area.
In the fall of 2015, the region began responding to a much-needed call for assistance with migrant families in the community. Marco’s expertise in American Red Cross services and knowledge of community affairs made him an ideal individual to help pave the way for serving families released from the family detention centers in South Texas.
Restoring Family Links volunteers meet the families at the San Antonio International Airport and the San Antonio Greyhound Bus Station to provide communications services and guidance on their next steps as they transition in their journey. They are there to answer whatever questions the families have about their travel, provide phone calls on international-enabled phones that allow individuals to call their loved ones in their country of origin and just be a smiling face in an otherwise cold and confusing setting.
Marco filled a much-needed leadership role in the program by advising on policies and logistics while still serving families every day. In November 2015, the Central and South Texas Region was hit with disaster after disaster, and while most of the region responded to the ongoing disaster relief operations across the region, Marco continued to serve the families every day while balancing his professional and personal responsibilities. His dedication to volunteerism has become a family affair, as his son has also become a regular and trusted Red Cross volunteer.
As need for Restoring Family Links services has grown, new volunteers were recruited, and Marco made himself available at any time needed to serve as a mentor and teacher. His consistent and compassionate presence has allowed the American Red Cross to build stronger relationships with partner organizations on the ground serving migrant families. He has become a trusted face, friend and, most importantly, a leader that truly embodies the values, principles and spirit of the American Red Cross.