by Angelina Vasilevsky, American Red Cross in Greater NY
“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.
Vanessa Diez, from Yonkers, N.Y., is a full time student pursuing her master’s in public administration/emergency management and a full time social worker, helping immigrant youth in NYC. She is a remarkable young woman who, despite a busy schedule, made it a priority to serve through the American Red Cross as a volunteer. She recently joined the Red Cross and just graduated from our Disaster Action Team Academy, a specialized training program for our volunteer leaders. As part of her Red Cross work she helps local residents affected by disasters during weekly takes night shifts.
Where does your desire and commitment to help others come from?
My entire career has been in service, so I’ve always kind of leaned that way. It was not something I necessarily planned on; it’s just something that always felt very natural to me. I also strongly believe that my commitment to service and the need to help others, came from my mom. She had a very rough life, but still managed to help everyone around her. Hearing her life story and the help she didn't get, encouraged me to be a person who is able to help other people, to let them know what services are out there, what they are entitled to, what their children are entitled to, to help people advocate for themselves. I felt like my mom just didn't really know how to advocate for herself, or advocate for my brother or me. Information is power, so if you have the information and you know that there are people behind you supporting you, you’re going to go the distance.
In the middle of the pandemic, you decided to volunteer with the Red Cross. What led you to this decision?
I felt like there was a lot of madness going on in the world. Ever since Covid-19 hit, it almost felt like I wasn't helping enough for my community and my people, so I needed to do more. I realized that I had all of this time working from home, and I wasn't using it productively. So I started looking for volunteer opportunities, in particular with emergency management. I just wanted to help the people that needed help. The Red Cross seemed to offer the ideal opportunities especially once I reached out to the supervisors, saw how flexible they are and how appreciative they are. I was impressed by everything that the Red Cross offers, in terms of training, connections and mostly the people who are providing the experiences and mentorship. The online training was very informative and easy to access. They even provided ways to practice, which is not something that is expected with online training and I thought that was really great.
You have a very busy schedule. When do you find the time to volunteer?
In my day job I work with kids. So most of my work with the Red Cross has been virtual. Now I will be going into the field, and that's something I've been waiting to do. I do overnight shifts, and I don't mind them at all. Sometimes it's quiet, but a lot of times it gets crazy in the middle of the night. I catch as much sleep as I can, and I try to get as much done as I can throughout the day. I think that the most important thing the Red Cross brings and offers is kindness, understanding and patience in a moment when a person doesn’t have any. I am so grateful and so happy to be working with such an amazing organization.