A Day in the Life of an American Red Cross Intern

Shannon Vance, Central Illinois Region, International Services/Military Services Intern

At our chapter you will find disaster services, health and safety teams, development gurus and communications experts. Every team will welcome you with a smile and a helping hand because we’re the American Red Cross. However if you’re really lucky, you will also find two wonderful people, sharing a cubicle and occasionally wearing coordinating colors. Say hello to your International Services team. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Since June of this year, I have served as the International Services Intern under Emily Richards who is the Regional Manager for International Services and Service to the Armed Forces. Got a question about International Humanitarian Law? We’re your go-to people. Want more information about Restoring Family Links? Absolutely, let’s hear it. Perhaps you’re more interested in our fight against measles and rubella. We can do that too. Having your hands in so many different projects can seem daunting and stressful, but is it really a good job if you’re not passionate about what you’re working on?

With that being said, let me show you what one of my days as an intern would look like.

Monday Morning: All-Staff Meeting

Sitting around a U-Shaped table is part of the Central Illinois Red Cross team. Here we’ll go around and update everyone on the projects we’re currently doing, sharing funny anecdotes and laughing about the Youth Program’s ‘Sneezy Sam’ model- you fill a bottle behind him with water and when a pump is pressed it squirts out of his nose as if he was sending snot flying. Really disgusting but really effective if you want to teach kids to cover their faces when they sneeze.

Weekly Meeting with Emily

After an always eventful all-staff meeting, Emily and I regroup back in our cubicle. Surrounded by echoing phone calls and filing cabinets, we have our weekly meeting. Here we’ll talk about current projects that I’m working on or that I should start to work on during that coming week. This summer it has been full of Restoring Family Links outreach work – making excel documents filled with potential local partners that work with refugees, writing scripts for cold calls into our region’s chapter offices and finding the best way for our staff and the community to become educated about this important program.

Motivated hours of work and jokes

One of the best parts about working with such a small team (mainly just Emily) is that we’re able to get a lot of work done but also have an enjoyable time doing so. After our weekly meeting, both Emily and I find ourselves pretty motivated and work efficiently. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t talking and having a grand ‘ol time, but it means that we are spending an immense amount of time bouncing ideas off of each other and cc’ing each other on numerous emails. If someone were to take a glance at my inbox they would think that all I did was spend my days sending and receiving emails to or from Emily. What can I say? We like to send emails.

Afternoon Meeting with Erin and Austin

There comes a time in every International Services Intern’s life when you realize that it would be severely helpful for you to know the basics of Red Cross Public Affairs. The first step towards posting important International Services tidbits on Twitter and Facebook is to have a chat with Erin, our Communications Director and her assistant, Austin. Within minutes I have learned the steps I need to take in order to become Red Cross Twitter Approved and am on my merry way to finding facts about World Refugee Day to share with the worldwide web.

Scouring the Exchange for RFL documents

As previously mentioned, Restoring Family Links has been a large part of my job here. Early on, before I dedicated my time to creating these specific training documents, I spent some time on the Red Cross’s Exchange and the RFL blog, searching for anything that could be adapted into what we needed. I felt like I was a private eye- I would find a tiny hint of a lead and I would chase it until it ended in a dead end. I talked to Red Cross volunteers and employees in Portland, SW Washington, Chicago and Phoenix in order to find out that what we needed didn’t exist yet. Granted, this process took me more than a day but once I had acquired every little bit of information I could, I took each piece and tried to glue it together. Without those pieces of information, I wouldn’t have been able to make the scripts and training tools that I did. I chalked this one up to be one of my biggest successes.

Ending the day with a little SAF

At this point, I have done a little IHL and RFL so I might as well throw in one more three-lettered acronyms into the mix. Once I accomplished the Service to the Armed Forces training, I could now help close cases in our region. One of the finer details of closing these cases includes writing summary forms for many of the cases that our volunteers from Caterpillar will help us with and stuffing envelopes with surveys. On this particular day, I stuffed envelopes with information on the program so we could send them to military families of new recruits- otherwise known as Get to Know Us Before You Need Us. It truly is the little things that make these programs so successful.

As my final days as the International Services intern edge closer and closer, I find myself latching on the wonderful experiences that I’ve been given over the last two months. I’m ecstatic that someone will follow in my footsteps and be able to experience the same people, the same projects and the same organization I had the chance to. I’m not quite ready to say goodbye, and the best part about it all is that I don’t truly have to. I will be on the IHL Action Campaign in the fall and I am trained to be an RFL and SAF caseworker. I don’t have to be an intern to give back to the Red Cross and these three programs, but it sure did help me get started.

The Power of Unique Teaching Methods

Story by Hetal S., Orange County, IHL Action Campaign Leader

Hetal presents her IHL Action Campaign during this year's IHL Youth Summit at American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Hetal presents her IHL Action Campaign during this year's IHL Youth Summit at American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, DC.

In ninth grade, I enrolled in the Exploring Humanitarian Law class at the American Red Cross Greater Long Beach Chapter, but unfortunately, did not grasp its importance. I did not delve deeply into International Services until a few years later. It was the IHL Action Campaign that I participated in as a Team Leader last year that truly made me realize the significance and exciting aspect of this line of service.

The IHL Action Campaign created by Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana consisted of an IHL-based gameshow, a pre-survey and post-survey to measure the impact of our campaign, a poster campaign to educate those not reached by the gameshow, and lunchtime activities. My team of ten youth volunteers decided upon a gameshow specifically because we believed that education disguised through a gameshow would be extremely engaging for the youth. We wanted to not only educate them, but spark their interest through a unique teaching method so that they would continue research into the important subject of International Humanitarian Law.

When the gameshow was hosted in the homeroom classes, even the generally uninterested students became extremely competitive and excited. Every time a question was asked, students would debate heatedly before choosing their final answer. When the question was answered correctly, shouts of joy would permeate through the classroom. When the question was answered incorrectly, my team members could feel the disappointment from the youth.

Hetal and her team plan their campaign to educate their fellow peers about International Humanitarian Law.

Hetal and her team plan their campaign to educate their fellow peers about International Humanitarian Law.

Yet, the true impact of our gameshow was seen when the youth in the classes would ask follow-up questions and join the American Red Cross club at their school to learn more about IHL. This showed that the gameshow not only temporarily raised their interest in the subject, but also influenced them to utilize their free time in pursuit of more knowledge about IHL. Hearing and seeing the power of our IHL Action Campaign truly made all of the work for the campaign worth it and will definitely influence my decision to participate more in International Services in my local chapter.

At the Greater Long Beach Chapter of the Red Cross, our youth International Services program is currently transforming to include more innovative methods to teach IHL. We are planning to hold IHL-related movie nights, more RAID Cross events, an International Conference, and even a gameshow night where people can compete through different gameshows for an ultimate prize. The IHL Action Campaign has showed me that the way a class is taught can greatly sway a person’s decision to participate in an event or project, and therefore, we plan on ensuring that all activities under International Services are fascinating and impactful in the future.

For more information on the work of the International Humanitarian Law program at the American Red Cross, and on International Humanitarian Law in general, please visit their blog, Humanity in the Midst of War.