2009 PFIG Recipient Monica Nable
College of Arts & Sciences
2011 Graduation Year
Internship: American Red Cross: Central Virginia Regional Chapter in Charlottesville
Notes on the first week
I was excited for my first day at the Red Cross, not only because this is my first "desk job" having worked summers in retail stores, bakeries, and summer camps, but because the organization’s mission is something I truly believe in. As a volunteer EMT at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad, I have been the first to respond to injurious and sometimes fatal disasters from heart attacks to car accidents. Seeing all of this has made me understand and become very passionate about the need to prevent and prepare for disasters before they occur. As the Community Disaster Education (CDE) program manager at the Red Cross, this is exactly what I am doing by bringing that message to the people.
The CDE is a brand new program at the Central Virginia Regional Chapter aimed at educating the communities about the importance of preparing and the ease of doing so with the help of the Red Cross in general disaster preparedness as well as more focused topics such as floods, hurricanes, and extreme heat. I am in charge of building its foundation, and this past week I have focused on identifying groups of people to present to, how to advertise to them and meet their needs; figuring out how to qualify presenters by building a workshop as well as more specific training based on topic area; and finally creating and putting together the actual presentations for the different communities. So far, I have been able to come up with a general outline on how the program will be run, and have been able to compile research and information for presentations. I have also met with multiple volunteers who have expressed an interest in becoming involved in this program, and who have given me extraordinary help and advice in building it. I had no idea I would have this much responsibility when I first came into the Red Cross, but after my first week, while it is has been a challenging and daunting task, it has already proven to be a very rewarding and educational experience. Already I have sat in on a staff meeting (with the CEO of our office!), written numerous e-mails from my brand new Red Cross account, been part of a teleconferencing training module with 60 different offices around the country, and struggled (and lost) with the copy machine!
As the weeks continue on and the program becomes more solidified, I am also tasked with training the first group of CDE presenters. I hope to communicate effectively with them and give them all the necessary tools and information to conduct presentations out in the communities that will engage the public and convince them of the importance of being prepared. Additional goals for my summer here at the Red Cross are to improve task management skills and presentation skills, and observe how the Red Cross is such an effective and successful non-profit organization. Are you "Red Cross Ready"?
The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy here at the Red Cross. While National has some suggestions and certain resources to use, there are no set guidelines on the CDE program itself, so chapters are free to run the program on their own terms. While this allows for a lot of freedom and leeway, it is pretty daunting to come up with all the specifics of how the program will be run, and then carry out those tasks and ideas.
After putting together a "Presenter's Tool Kit" with everything and more a Community Disaster Education presenter could need, I had to make thirteen copies of the humongous binder. Let's just say the copier and I are no longer on good terms. The Tool Kit includes an overview of the CDE program itself and how it will be run, a guide on talking about different topics of disasters, the hazard mitigation plans of all the counties and cities our branch covers (which is expansive, going as north as Fauquier County, as west as Rockingham County, and as south as Rockbridge County) with a listing of the different disasters that have occurred in the areas, the PowerPoint presentation slides themselves, and all sorts of handouts and brochures for the presenters to reference or to give to the communities. Then came the Presenter's Workshop. Coming into my internship, I knew one of my tasks was to qualify presenters, however, I had no idea this meant I would be in charge of coming up with the workshop itself and teaching the 3 hour course! Luckily, I had help from my boss, Jill, who guided me along the way to tailoring the workshop and streamlining it to fit our needs and our specific program. We trained our first group of presenters last Thursday, and from my perspective and from their evaluations, I believe it went really well. It is a really great group, which even includes a UVa student volunteer, and I'm excited that the program is coming along. I've also set up a follow-up meeting for our presenters to come in and present a snippet of their presentation, tailored to a specific "audience" such as the Girl Scouts, or the elderly, etc., to the group in order to become more familiar with the presentations, to receive feedback and other ideas from the group, as well as to become more comfortable speaking in front of an audience.
Meanwhile, we have also been working hard to build our arsenal of presentations. We have volunteers from all different backgrounds who have committed their time and energy to making audience-specific presentations. A college student is currently working on Disaster Preparedness for Seniors, and another volunteer is working on presentations for all the levels of school children from pre-school to high school. There are still other groups we must focus on, such as those with disabilities, and those who have limited English, to name a few, but our goal is to have ready-to-go presentations when different groups request disaster preparedness education. It's crucial that we work in a timely manner, especially since we already have 4 groups that have expressed an interest in a Community Disaster Education presentation, all of them coming up in the next two months.
As I finish up training the presenters, I will also begin to advertise to the communities, looking at groups to contact as well as putting the CDE name out there, whether it be in paper advertisements or radio show commercials. The chapter is also revamping their website, so we're hoping to integrate that into the CDE program as well, from having a plug about the presentations to providing our volunteer presenters with resources online. There are still a lot of things to do and details to figure out as we get the CDE program off the ground, but it is extremely exciting and I am very grateful that I have gotten the chance to watch and learn as we progress.
The summer has ended and we’ve just now begun to give presentations to the community. My boss, Jill, and I traveled to Culpeper to give a presentation to a senior citizen’s club at the local library. They were such an engaging audience, asking lots of questions and participating with stories and comments. From my perspective, we were received very well, and it was amazing getting to see all our hard work finally coming together in the form of a presentation.
We were also able to hold our follow-up sessions with our presenters. On two separate nights, they were able to come in and present a snippet of their presentation tailored to an assigned "audience" and then receive feedback from the other presenters. It was exciting to see the presenter’s own personalities show through in how they edited the presentations and the activities and props they added. We have one volunteer who has worked with children in the past, and is such an amazing entertainer, so she edited hers for school children. You could tell how much passion she had for what she was doing, and it was really uplifting to get to witness that. I believe we have trained a really great group of volunteers, especially to get the CDE name out there in the community.
We had 10 presentations scheduled for the next couple of months by the end of the summer, and the presenters eagerly signed up for them. Once the presenters themselves go out into the community, I will consider my time at the Red Cross a success. I eventually hope to have the whole program self-sustainable, with experienced presenters training the new ones – a true "learn, do, teach" philosophy. I’ve also decided to continue volunteering with the Red Cross. I’ve taken their first class they require all volunteers to take called "Fulfilling Our Mission" where I learned further about the philosophy and mission of the Red Cross. I’ve arranged with Jill to come in every Friday afternoon to keep up with the CDE and remain as the program director, scheduling presentations and training sessions, and organizing the overall program. I’m really excited to be able to remain with the Red Cross and the CDE program and to hopefully learn from all that I’ve done during my summer here, and improve on it.