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From Evacuee to Volunteer – Cliff’s Red Cross Story

Red Cross San Diego Cliff's Story
I felt the need to help, and the Red Cross fit my ethos of wanting to help humanity.

Sometimes, a volunteer’s first experience with the Red Cross is when they walk in the door and start volunteering. For others, the relationship begins much earlier. That’s the case with Cliff Hu, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for over a decade.

Cliff’s introduction to the Red Cross came when he and his family were evacuated from their home during the devastating ‘03 wildfires in San Diego. Suddenly finding themselves without a place to go, the Hu family was warmly welcomed into a Red Cross shelter. In the shelter, surrounded by their neighbors, they instantly they felt like part of a community again. They weren't alone. Cliff was surrounded by others facing the same scary situation. At the shelter, he noticed the sea of red vests and witnessed, first hand, the hard work and passion of Red Cross volunteers. That’s when he decided to become a volunteer.

Over the past 11 years, Cliff has volunteered in everything from public affairs to disaster response to information planning and more. One of his proudest achievements? He was instrumental in developing SitCell, a mapping software that the San Diego and Imperial Counties chapter has used since 2012 to help direct Red Cross operations throughout the region during disasters.

SitCell software tracks areas impacted by disasters and integrates disaster information into common operating data. This data allows Red Crossers to effectively delegate resources in affected areas. “We’re about getting information out in a timely way that will help people reach a shelter safer and faster than ever,” says Cliff. “Previously, we used white boards, stickies, phones, and pen and paper to drive our operations. Now, we use teleconferencing, the Google suite of apps, and VSEE to communicate. We can send information to our Disaster Action Teams (DAT), sheltering, logistical, and feeding teams with more accuracy and timeliness than ever before. It [SitCell] allows us to send the right information to the right people at the right time.”

Working with “neat” people and believing in the mission of the Red Cross has motivated Cliff to continue volunteering his services year after year. Cliff encourages prospective volunteers to get involved, noting “there’s something here for everyone.” When asked why he began volunteering with the Red Cross- and what has kept him going for 11 years- Cliff simply says, “I felt the need to help, and the Red Cross fits my ethos of wanting to help humanity.”