From California’s Sonoma County, Rosiris Guerra watched TV in horror as half of a coastal town in her native Venezuela was swept away by floods and mudslides. To help, she raised money from friends and family and sent the donations to the Venezuelan Red Cross.
In 2000 she decided to give back by becoming a Red Cross volunteer. Rosiris has been a Red Crosser ever since, first as a volunteer and later as an employee. She has also taught her daughters, Gabriella and Tatiana Mercier, to serve.
Focusing on the Community
Throughout her Red Cross career, Rosiris has had one goal—to help her community. As a volunteer she taught CPR and first aid, giving others the skills to save a life. She continued working in Preparedness and Health and Safety Services as an employee. Rosiris talks about Vamos a Nadar (Let’s Swim), a program she developed and taught after learning that in her community, young Latino males were more likely to drown than other swimmers.
“Vamos a Nadar is a direct way to help our Latino families,” she said. The bilingual program includes an introductory swimming lesson for kids and a water safety presentation for their parents. Each child also receives a coupon for a series of heavily discounted swim lessons. After nine years, Vamos a Nadar has taught more than 2,000 kids to swim.
Currently Rosiris manages the region’s Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training. She likes helping people in her community train for jobs as nurse assistants, moving some from unemployment to careers. “Each person trained as a nurse assistant helps the Red Cross and it helps the community,” she said. “That’s really important to me because I live in the same community in which I work.”
Involving the Next Generation
Rosiris started bringing her two daughters to the Red Cross when they were five and seven. Now in high school, both are still volunteering. “Tatiana and Gabriella volunteer because they want to,” Rosiris said. “They come home from volunteering exhausted, but with a big smile. They always find the time to volunteer.”
Gabriella says she started volunteering at the Red Cross because of her mother, but has stayed because of Hurricane Katrina. “I was only eight when it happened,” she said, “but I can so vividly remember what it was like at the office the weeks following it. I spent a lot of days after school there, running things to people and just watching how hard they were working. Seeing the Red Cross do so much good was just really inspiring.”
My mother “taught me that volunteering means choosing to take time out of your day to do something productive that will help people in the long run,” said Tatiana. She went on to say she has learned she doesn’t have to be out in the field to make a contribution; the work done behind the scenes matters as well.
Rosiris concludes, “I believe giving a gift to your community is a good thing, because that gift will help you in your soul. I have tried to pass that on to my kids, and I think I did.”
*Photo courtesy of: Patti Brunelle, PBVisuals.com