What is the best way to prepare for an emergency? Just ask one of the 9-year-olds about to graduate from the Red Cross Academy at Siena Youth Center in Redwood City.
Every Monday night since January from 6 to 7:30 p.m., 35-40 youth attend classes about basic first aid, hands-only CPR, disaster preparedness, and responding to emergencies.
By the end of the ten-week course, 40 youth at the Red Cross Academy graduated by performing puppet shows for their families, passing on the knowledge including earthquake and fire safety, blood donation tips and family emergency planning, to parents and siblings.
The Academy is part of the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter’s innovative Ready Neighborhoods initiative, which launched in 2011. Funded by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, this multi-year initiative is designed to transform 50 Bay Area neighborhoods into models of disaster resilience. The Academy was created to increase community preparedness awareness among youth and their parents, many of whom are recent immigrants and monolingual Spanish-speakers.
“The course is benefitting the community as a whole,” stated Rafael Avendano, Siena Youth Center Youth Program Director. “This is a community that doesn’t get much information or education. The classes help the kids take home a lot of information and a first aid kit—the last thing people put in their grocery bag because it's expensive.”
Red Cross Academy participants are learning responsibility and leadership skills at the center, which was built in October 2012.
"Being prepared is being a good leader," Rafael explained. "They're exposed to 'what if' situations. What if they are the only ones who know what to do in their family in an emergency?"
According to Quoc Tran, who teaches the course with Ready Neighborhoods Manager Alan Kwok, each session focused on a different aspect of Red Cross services, even turning the Youth Center, which has recently signed a shelter agreement, into a mini-emergency shelter one night.
"We brought the ERV [Emergency Response Vehicle] and created different stations. We had one station doing feeding, one for setting up cots, one for the cleanup crew, etcetera, so they could learn what the Red Cross does in a disaster," said Quoc, who has been a volunteer for the Red Cross for four years.
Rafael believes the pilot has been a great success. Quoc hopes the program will continue and more classes will be offered for older kids.
“It builds a long-term base for the future," Quoc said.
And do the kids like the classes?
Rafael said: "They voted on the classes two weeks ago. It was our second most popular class behind dodge ball, which made Alan jump with joy! They picked the Red Cross over other sports they like."
In the meantime, Rafael supports Save-A-Life-Saturday, which he says is a great opportunity for the whole family to learn first aid, CPR, and emergency preparedness. Those attending these free classes will also receive an emergency preparedness kit.
"I always think the whole family should know [emergency preparedness skills]," Rafael said. "Sometimes education is something that comes last because they're thinking about, how am I going to feed my kids?"
Siena Youth Center is holding Save-A-Life-Saturday sessions on June 1 at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Sessions will be conducted in Spanish and English. Siena Youth Center is located in North Fair Oaks, 2625 Marlborough Avenue.
To register or learn more about Save-A-Life Saturday, call 415-488-6721 or go to www.redcross.org/news/article/Save-A-Life-Saturday-in-the-Bay-Area for more information.