“Youth in governance is a huge passion of mine,” says Sandy Tesch Wilkins, a volunteer with the American Red Cross Bay Area (San Francisco, California). At 27, Wilkins has spent more years in positions of leadership than many volunteers twice her age.
Her skills have catapulted her to a seat on the Youth Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the global organization charged with coordinating the work of the world’s largest humanitarian network. This commission is responsible for advising on matters relating to young people, and the development of youth programs in the 187 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies found in most nations of the world.
The Youth Commission is just getting started on a multi-year push to attract and retain more young people around the world, including youth in governance and management of their national societies. It’s just the kind of volunteer service Tesch Wilkins has been looking for.Red Cross volunteer Sandy Tesch Wilkins administers a Vitamin A drop to a boy in The Gambia. Photo Credit: Daniel Cima
Growth and Development of a Red Cross Leader
Thirteen years ago Tesch Wilkins was seeking a summer job. She sent out dozens of inquiries. The Bay Area chapter of the American Red Cross was the only one that got back to her. When Tesch Wilkins learned she was too young to be employed, she decided to volunteer.
The next summer she attended Leadership Development Camp. “I was super shy as a kid,” she says, “I was so glad to have the opportunity to attend. It took me beyond my own school, and my own community.”
A couple years later Tesch Wilkins was asked to serve as the youth representative on the chapter Strategic Planning Committee. She talks about going from being a “worker bee” to “thinking about the goals of the Red Cross and how the organization could serve more people.”
“Sitting on a planning committee was transformational,” she says, “I immediately started a Red Cross school club.” Tesch Wilkins has held a number of local, national and international positions since then, traveling across the United States and to Geneva, Switzerland; Solferino, Italy; Nairobi, Kenya; and rural Gambia. Next month she’ll travel to Haiti for the Inter-Americas Conference and then to Geneva for her first Youth Commission meeting.
Now a young professional, Tesch Wilkins continues as a volunteer at the Bay Area chapter, where she is chair of youth services, the volunteer counterpart to the director of volunteer and youth services. Also coordinator for a local Disaster Action Team, she responds to home and apartment fires in the San Francisco area. After the last large fire, she helped with the casework, matching displaced people with displaced pets.
Become a Red Cross Youth Volunteer
More than a quarter of all American Red Cross volunteers are youth and young professionals. Many chapters offer activities such as school clubs, leadership camps and training in skills such as swimming, lifeguarding, CPR and babysitting.
Contact your local Red Cross to learn about opportunities for young philanthropists in your community.