Friday, May 7, 2021

"Three Questions” with Red Cross Volunteer Margaret Sukhram

By Christine A. Gipson, 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.

Born in British Guyana and educated in England, Margaret Sukhram is a Nurse Practitioner currently living in Long Island. She's been with the Red Cross since 2012. In addition to her work in Health Services, she also volunteers with Services to the Armed Forces, the home fire safety program, Youth Services as well as the Disaster Action Team. And she also gives of her time to other organizations, including A-1 Universal and the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute.
Where have you been deployed to outside of Long Island?

I have done 14 or 15 deployments in person and virtual, including Hurricane Harvey in Texas, wildfires in California and Hurricane Michael in Florida. Big local responses as well, like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene. 

Which response out of all those was the most memorable?

Oh gosh, memorable? Memorable could be all of them in different ways. Each disaster is so different, but one memory stands out. There was a lady, at one of the disasters, Hurricane Michael in Florida. She wouldn't sleep at the shelter where I was working. She was sleeping in her car. She was very angry, but she would come in and talk to the nurses but not the Mental Health volunteers. We thought she needed Mental Health support. And I remember her saying, "It's like Kubler-Ross [five stages of grief ]. I'm not ready to move on. I'm still angry." So we talked and we talked and we knew where she was at, in the spectrum of Kubler-Ross. And finally after talking with her, we were able to get her to sleep in the shelter and not in the car. And she eventually was able to talk with a Mental Health counselor. And later, before she left, she said AARP offered to interview her for a story about losing her home and everything. Needless to say, a few months later she was in the AARP magazine. So that was a great thing to see us help her to build some kind of resiliency and move on. She was able to accept her situation and share her story with others. So that was a wonderful experience for me, to know that someone who was hurt in a disaster was able to build some resiliency and share her story so others would know that they are not the only ones. There are lots of different stories. Each disaster is different.

What has volunteering brought to your life?

Such richness. I feel richer everyday for volunteering. I feel gratification. I feel that I'm making a difference in people's lives. And I feel that when you are kind to people, kindness pays off. I love to see people smile. You can see relief in them when they know that people are listening to their stories. It has just brought richness to me as a person, as a human being. 

Volunteers for the Red Cross, I feel, are very special people, and I've developed great friendships with people both in different states that we keep in touch with and locally. I love to work with the Red Cross'ers because I feel that they are special people to want to donate their time and energy to this cause of helping others.

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