Story by Lainey Schmidt, Intern, Washington, DC
When I started my internship at the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links (RFL) program this summer, it actually was not my first introduction to the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross. I had spent last summer interning with the program at the Red Cross in Phoenix, Arizona. With that internship, I got on-the-ground experience as a caseworker and also conducted outreach through presentations, event planning, and partnership building. Through it all, I fell in love with the program because I was able to understand how much our work impacted others’ lives and how valuable our efforts really are. So, when I got the chance to come to National Headquarters this summer and complete an internship with the same program, I jumped at the opportunity!
Though the projects I have worked on this summer have been incredibly varied, most of them are related to outreach. While in Phoenix last year, I really learned how important outreach efforts are for RFL. We can only provide reconnection services to those who are aware that the American Red Cross offers international tracing and messaging, so making sure we promote our services, locally and nationally, is essential. As I have learned, though, that is easier said than done.
A lot of my work this summer was focused on creating Outreach Activity Guides for use by American Red Cross chapter offices. The hope for these guides is to provide step-by-step instructions and checklists to make it easy for anyone involved in the program to conduct outreach in their community.
I am lucky to have a unique perspective on these guides. Though I only spent a few months in the chapter, my experience there helped me understand what was most needed and what could be most helpful. While actually being in a community is the most significant way to conduct outreach, our goal at National Headquarters is to provide the Chapters with the most useful resources to make those efforts easier. At the same time, I worked on other projects related to outreach; I helped develop materials for our World Refugee Day Reception here in DC, I created RFL-related games, and have been working on updating training materials for our outreach workshop.
I feel so lucky to have had the experience of working directly with clients in Phoenix, and later to have been able to use this experience at a more macro-level. In the chapter, I was able to spend time on-the-ground as a caseworker and outreach worker, experiencing the everyday excitement of working with Restoring Family Links. At National Headquarters, I have been able to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a program like this successful.
Working in these different capacities for the past two summers has not only given me an eye-opening view of the refugee situation here in the United States, but has also allowed me to participate in work that is fulfilling, given me a job that I look forward to going to every day, and given me a chance to gain many perspectives on international humanitarian work. While at Headquarters, the RFL team has provided me with countless opportunities to learn about every facet of their work. Even more than that, though, I have been able to take advantage of being in DC and learn about the American Red Cross International Services Department as a whole. If I was not already convinced that international humanitarian work was what I wanted to pursue, I would have been after five minutes here, hearing how passionate everyone is about the Red Cross mission.