Wednesday, October 21, 2020

"Three Questions" With Garrison Harward

By Alessandro Malave, American Red Cross in Greater New York

"Three Questions” is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers, and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our different programs and get to know those who make this work possible.

Brooklyn resident Garrison Harward is a volunteer with the American Red Cross in Greater NY, serving as a disaster responder, helping residents impacted by local disasters across the five boroughs. Originally from California, Harward moved to NYC in 2013 and first joined the Red Cross after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto. As part of his three-week deployment there he traveled across the island helping to distribute solar panels and generators. Since COVID-19, Harward has taken on more volunteer hours and added responsibilities with the NY Red Cross.

How and why did you begin volunteering with the Red Cross?

I think I had a really unique entry into the Red Cross. I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I served in Senegal for two years after college. Through the former “Return the Peace Corps” volunteer network, I learned that the Red Cross needed more people to help in Puerto Rico who were used to working in pretty extreme conditions. So my very first interaction with the Red Cross was when I deployed to Puerto Rico. And that's the reason that I kept volunteering with the Red Cross because I had such a positive experience there.

Can you talk about your work responding to disasters during COVID-19?

It's been busy, actually. There are lots of fires, there are still unsafe apartments that people can't stay in, and there are also City services to get people into better situations. We're a part of that system. I've been doing lots and lots of deliveries [of relief items] as well as financial assistance. That often has to be delivered to the clients [impacted residents]. For a lot of people, that financial assistance can be the difference between them being able to get where they’re going to be staying or not. Or sometimes it’s whether or not people are going to eat that night.

Can you talk about teamwork during the pandemic?

There's a lot of good coordination happening, and a lot of people problem solving and willing to help. It's just cool to be in that environment. I've done a couple of overnight sessions at disaster scenes. There was a building collapse, and I was in an ERV [Emergency Response Vehicle] overnight, just to be there for Red Cross in case residents needed help. And then, I got to go into the OEM [NYC Emergency Management] Command Center. This was pretty cool. Being the Red Cross representative for that response, that all these different agencies are also a part of, it was great. It was so cool to be a part of the whole system that's trying to help people out.

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