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Monthly Archives: December 2013

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Thanksgiving week marked the end of my rotation working in preparedness education as an AmeriCorps member.  Working that rotation was a friendly reminder for why I wanted to follow a career in medicine.  What really pushed me towards medicine was that medicine gives me the opportunity to interact with such a diverse group of people, and I encountered this during my time in the preparedness education rotation.

While working in preparedness education, I was given the opportunity to travel throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania to present the various courses Red Cross offers at schools and community centers.  Some classes I taught were about fire safety, others were about disaster preparedness, and my favorite one was teaching a hygiene class to kindergartners.

What I enjoyed most about teaching classes was the diversity of the participants.  I find that the diversity brought an element of surprise to teaching because I never knew the people I’d encounter when walking into a classroom.  This made each day of work exciting because I knew I would have the opportunity to meet new people.

Although it was my job to be teaching others, I often found myself learning skills that I hope to take advantage of when I go into the medical field.  Working in preparedness education has really improved my ability to teach others and has also greatly improved my public speaking.  It has also taught me the importance of being able to adapt to different situations; I often found myself drifting away from my script to better explain the course.

I hope my time working in preparedness education had a positive impact on Southeastern Pennsylvania.  It is sad to be leaving that department, but I am excited knowing that the other departments have just as much to offer!

Welcome to Giving Tuesday. I’m not a big fan of made up stuff so people can have a cool hashtag, but you can’t really argue with a day to recognize and draw attention to wonderful charitable organizations doing amazing work.

In deciding to write about our Red Cross blankets in honor of Giving Tuesday, I was motivated by one thing, the airing last night of the beloved holiday special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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Scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas

That episode is a timeless classic I watch every year. There are so many great moments, but what always sticks out to me is the part where Linus and Charlie Brown are joined by the rest of the gang to decorate the pathetic tree Charlie picked out. Who can’t relate to the symbolism of that scene?

Now that I work for the Red Cross, I am particularly struck by how they use the blanket to secure the base of the tree to keep it from falling over. I never really thought much of it before. That’s not the case anymore. Now I think about the impact blankets have, symbolically and more importantly, practically.

For the Red Cross, the care we give to people who have suffered a disaster almost always begins with the blanket. In its most basic and utilitarian form, the blanket keeps people (and sometimes pets) warm. Red Cross blankets provide warmth to an elderly woman forced from her home by a hurricane on a chilly October day, to families in the dead of night as they watch their home burn to the ground, to passengers floating on an airplane wing in the middle of a river on a Fall afternoon, and to commuters who suddenly find themselves standing by a mangled train that ran off the tracks in a tragic accident. Feeling warmer is a small but vital step to recovery.

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Woman enjoys a friendly moment at the Red Cross shelter at Palisades High School in Bucks County after Hurricane Sandy. Credit: American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania

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Families gather after their apartment building in Yeadon, Delaware County, is destroyed by fire. Credit: American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania

 

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11 year old Ahmet keeps warm after a fire destroyed his home in Upper Merion Twp., Montgomery County. Credit: American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania

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Dozens of passengers wait to be rescued from downed jetliner in what is known as the Miracle on the Hudson Credit: AP

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A passenger is taken away on a stretcher after being rescued in the Miracle on the Hudson. Credit: American Red Cross New York

Passengers try to keep warm after their commuter train derailed in the Bronx. Credit: American Red Cross New York

Passengers try to keep warm after their commuter train derailed in the Bronx. Credit: American Red Cross New York

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A kitten rescued from a house that caught fire in Philadelphia. Credit: Red Paw Emergency Relief

As the person whose job it is to help protect and promote the image and reputation of the American Red Cross, I often comment that the blanket is the best PR the Red Cross could ever get. The sight of a person wrapped in a Red Cross blanket at a disaster scene pretty much sums up in as powerful a way as possible what the Red Cross does and what the Red Cross is all about.

While the Red Cross provides far more than blankets to those affected by disaster, the blanket is usually the most immediate physical and emotional need the Red Cross meets. Each blanket costs about $6. And PR aside, it’s the best $6 the Red Cross could ever spend. So on this Giving Tuesday, think about Charlie Brown and the blanket that helped make that sad tree beautiful. Then think about the Red Cross blanket and how much comfort, hope, and recovery $6 can buy.