As a senior at Cleveland State University pursuing a bachelors of Social Work, I began an internship with the American Red Cross, in the Emergency Services department.
After a fire, the Red Cross assists the family in immediate and urgent needs. As a student intern I am learning how to participate in a social services agency setting by working directly with clients, other caseworkers, volunteers, and various other staff positions. I look to each person at the Red Cross as a “teacher” and someone from whom I can learn valuable lessons and techniques.
A typical day for me at the Red Cross includes following up with clients after they have experienced a disaster. The most prevalent of emergency situations that I have encountered, during my time, are single-family house fires. The caseworkers at the Red Cross and I ensure that the client’s direct needs are being met. If the Red Cross cannot provide it directly, there are countless referrals to other community organizations. I spend a lot of time on the phone talking with clients, sometimes it is a short call and sometimes the client wants to have someone to talk to and express their fears, worries, and sometimes even joys. I use my ability to communicate with others when they have just experienced a crisis, by validating their words and listening to what it is that they are saying. Other times I meet with clients when they need to come in to the Red Cross for a meeting with a caseworker. Being able to help people in such a dire time of need, knowing that I have many tools in my toolbox to assist them and let them know that they are not alone, is so rewarding.
As part of my internship, I have been able to go out and witness the scene of a disaster. I went to a house that had been burnt very badly and the emotions of clients as they were standing outside, were very raw. Having never been in a situation quite like this I was not sure how I would feel, or how I should act. I learned a lot by watching my Red Cross supervisor communicate with empathy, understanding, and patience. Even though her home was very badly damaged, the client was most concerned for her cat’s well-being. As we left various neighbors, family members and friends came to her and lavish her with hugs, and envelopes of money to help financially. Even in a situation that is inconceivably horrible, the strengths within this one client’s community gives me hope of a full recovery and resiliency.
After semesters of studying books and articles, participating in mock interventions, and writing papers in preparation for my future as a Social Work practitioner, my work with the Red Cross has reaffirmed my passion for social work.