Interning with the Red Cross: The Humanitarian Side of International Affairs

Story by Joseph Hancuch, RFL Intern, Washington, DC

My internship at the American Red Cross was incredibly formative. Coming to DC and majoring in International Affairs, I was concentrated on security policy and national security concerning the Middle East. This internship with the Restoring Family Links (RFL) program exposed me to the humanitarian side of international affairs I hadn't given much thought to.

While interning with RFL, I worked on both casework and outreach. The casework aspect was a main reason I was attracted to the program and I was incredibly lucky to work with the team on helping reconnect families separated due to conflict, migration and other crises in the Americas region.

I have always enjoyed puzzles and this casework is often like a giant puzzle. Some cases are straight forward and we are able to pass them immediately onto the local chapter to initiate a search. Others, however, are not as straight forward and research is needed to be done to get a sense where the sought person may be located. Sometimes, we call on the help of partner organizations to help in a search, making outreach a valuable tool for reconnecting separated families.

In addition to casework, I was able to work on outreach. This included building relationships with genocide survivor communities and the organizations that serve them in order to put together a panel discussion for Genocide Awareness Month. I also helped with grant projects funding World Refugee Day events, webinars on the countries and contexts in which RFL clients have lived, and monthly newsletters. With many of these projects, I was given the independence to explore and learn the best practices of outreach. I enjoyed working with the chapter network directly, leading World Refugee Day Grant calls and providing resources such as the webinars and the Genocide Awareness Month Panel.

Interning at the Red Cross this past semester has allowed me to meet some incredible people who are dedicated to their work and the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering. I have had the opportunity to go from hearing about the effects of global phenomena like conflict and migration to learning and hearing individual stories and the work of humanitarian organizations to meet their needs. It has been a great place of work to grow both professionally and personally.

Interning for RFL has had an impact on how exactly I view the world and international affairs. In the past, I saw humanitarian disasters, such as Darfur, Yemen and Syria through the lens of ‘how does this affect the security of the United States?” I acknowledged that these situations were horrible, but felt that nothing could be done. However, working with casework and coming in contact with these individual stories, I have come to realize that it is not about the inability of governments to care and aid, but the work of organization to raise awareness and provide services that are otherwise not available.