Wednesday, June 30, 2021

"Three Questions" with Sally Nielsen

"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.

by Xavia Malcolm, American Red Cross in Greater NY

Sally Nielsen has dedicated her life to helping others. She has cared for many people over the span of her career as a nurse. Today, although she is retired, Sally continues to apply the noble principles of nursing to her role as a health services volunteer with the American Red Cross. Since joining our team in January of 2018, she has provided assistance to countless individuals, and has exemplified compassion.

Why did you pursue a career in nursing?

I fell in love with the Florence Nightingale [founder of modern nursing] story, and nursing has always been a part of my life. My mother was a nurse, I became a nurse, so did my daughter. It is an amazing career that allows me to do what I love the most which is to help others.

How has becoming Red Cross volunteer impacted your life?

I have always admired the work of the Red Cross. What we do is truly unique. Volunteering has given me the opportunity to see resilience and grace at its best, in times of adversity. In 2018, I deployed to Florida following the devastation of Hurricane Michael. The level of destruction was one that you could not imagine. You would have to see it to believe it. Homes were leveled and acres of forest were destroyed. Everything was demolished. Yet people were so grateful that we were there with them. I find it important to let people know that we are truly there to help in any way that we can. One of the first things I say to clients when we arrive is, “You are not alone. The Red Cross is here for you.” With these words people often break down and cry. What we do makes a difference in their lives. I have had clients contact me months after a response saying: "thank you for helping my family find a safe place to stay," "thank you for helping me secure a generator to run my medical equipment," and so on." I admire these people; they are the amazing ones.

The pandemic has changed our way of life, what has been like for you as volunteer?

It’s been hard. The human touch just means so much and it has been challenging in some ways to not physically touch someone to reassure them or make them feel them feel supported. However, I take comfort in knowing that I can still provide assistance by speaking with clients on the phone, offering virtual support and providing referrals online. I am looking forward to the day when I am able to give hugs again- I can’t wait!

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