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Local Volunteer Empowers Communities to Think Beyond Aid

American Red Cross of Santa Cruz County Volunteer Wodage Tebeje

Santa Cruz County Chapter Manager of Emergency Services, Patsy Gasca, and volunteer Wodage Tebeje pose for a photo after a recent presentation given by Wodage.

“Wodage has a great understanding of the importance of helping people and communities respond to disasters.” - Chapter Development Manager, Camilla Boolootian

Wodage Tebeje, an American Red Cross Santa Cruz County Chapter volunteer in international services, is dedicated to changing people’s lives for the better.

“I have made a commitment to be helpful, to be a part of global efforts to reduce poverty,” the Ethiopian national said. “That is the only way we can say we have done something to empower people.”

Wodage has learned firsthand about the importance of teaching people the skills needed to recover from a disaster. His first volunteer role was with the Ethiopian Red Cross in 1984 in the then Wollo region of Ethiopia, an area ravaged by famine. In 1986, he made the three-month journey by foot to Sudan, traveling more than 800 miles and leaving behind an Ethiopia torn apart by civil war and government crackdowns on youth.

In Sudan, he worked for two and a half years with Save the Children as a nursing assistant and providing support to other refugees. He came to the United States in 1989.

Wodage, who is also the director of the nonprofit Ethiopian Community Services in San Jose, recently shared his experience working as a volunteer in Ethiopia, Sudan, and other sub- Saharan African countries with a group in Santa Cruz in honor of World Red Cross Day.

During his presentation, he related the importance of long-term development goals, like teaching people the skills they need to prevent or alleviate disasters, as well as providing immediate aid after a disaster strikes.

At the Red Cross Santa Cruz County Chapter, where he has volunteered for the past six months, Wodage is working to reach out to community partners to create awareness about the importance of development and preparedness.

Chapter Development Manager, Camilla Boolootian, has had the opportunity to work with Wodage and appreciates the perspective he shares with staff, volunteers, and the community.

“Wodage has a great understanding of the importance of helping people and communities respond to disasters,” said Camilla.

“He is very passionate regarding the importance of educating those who provide help and aid to also empower those communities to prevent and prepare so that they can become self-sufficient.”