As hurricane season enters its third month, American Red Cross volunteer Abelardo Cardona knows the power of hurricanes and the importance preparing diverse communities for a disaster.
In 2005, while Cardona, his three children and wife were living in Florida, he witnessed the strength of Hurricane Katrina. “I will never forget how I felt that day...I can tell you that it is a terrible experience to see the wind blowing at such an unbelievable speed and to see big trees just pulled from the ground by their roots,” he said.
Cardona said the Red Cross was the first organization to provide assistance, including food, clothing, medicine and support for the next three months after the disaster. “I could feel that these volunteers really [loved] their work,” he said. “I was very impressed by that, and I thought to myself, ‘Someday I would like to be a Red Cross volunteer.’”
In 2009, Cardona and his family moved to Greenville, S.C., and he participated in a Spanish preparedness education event sponsored by the Western Carolinas Region Red Cross chapter. He immediately decided to become a volunteer for the chapter’s Hispanic Outreach Program. Cardona delivered presentations on “Be Ready, Fire Safety,” and what to do in case of a house fire.
“For an organization like the Red Cross, it’s really important that we’re prepared to serve all kinds of people in need before, during and after a disaster,” said Maria D’Ambrosio, executive director of Corporate Diversity. “When the victim of a hurricane who speaks Spanish is greeted in a shelter by a volunteer who speaks Spanish, they have common ground and will feel more comfortable in a situation that is already upsetting for them.”
Today Cardona is the coordinator for the Preparedness Education Committee for the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Outreach Program. He continues to teach in churches, community centers and other organizations that support the Hispanic community around Greenville.
CruzRojaAmericana.org is the national Red Cross Spanish-language Web site, which communicates about the organization’s mission, services and how to volunteer with the Hispanic population in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. People who want to volunteer with the Red Cross can find more information on Cruz Roja and redcross.org.