Clive Jachnik, the new regional disaster program officer for the American Red Cross Indianapolis Region, is settling into his new office. Although he is a professional artist with a talent for capturing the spirit of the many countries where he has worked, Clive’s office is decorated with vintage Red Cross posters and his children’s drawings. The office also contains a teapot and Sri Lankan black tea he will happily serve while he shares fascinating stories of his international experiences and his hopes for the Red Cross.
Raised in Scotland and formerly employed by the British Royal Navy and the United Nations, Clive is new to Indiana and the American Red Cross, but he is not new to serving others creatively and without discrimination. For more than a decade, Clive performed peace-building roles for the UN including Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. Most recently, Clive worked in Sri Lanka with Ex-LTTE Tigers, former members of a separatist militant group that waged a fifteen-year civil war and carried out terrorist attacks including the assassination of the Sri Lankan president in 1993. After the civil war ended, the LTTE soldiers were kept in rehabilitation camps and when the Sri Lankan government declared members of the militant group reformed, it was Clive’s job to reintegrate them back into their family, their neighborhood, their society.
Clive worked with the Ex-LTTE to get basic things like identification cards and voter registration papers as well as helping create a new life in their society. He refuses to label anyone as a bad guy. He believes, “That gray zone between perfect and absolutely abhorrent is where the vast majority of the human race lives.”
This deep level of empathy and complete non-judgment translates well into his role at the American Red Cross. Clive says, “It is not for us to delineate who gets help. It’s based on the principle of impartiality. It’s absolutely key.”
Clive moved to Indiana with his wife Megan, a native Hoosier, and two young children. Megan, a former United Nations employee in the Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, believes in service and supported Clive’s many years of international travel, but Clive says, “It was time to settle down and be there for my family.” He wanted to continue working with a humanitarian organization and put his focus on service, not self-service. In his international work, Clive observed that the countries with people working without a personal agenda, like Sri Lanka, had great success in bettering their country.
As the Regional Disaster Program Officer, Clive manages disaster preparedness, response and recovery. In the Indianapolis region, which covers fifty-seven of Indiana’s counties, weather related disasters such as flooding and tornadoes are common, but the most seen disaster is the house fire. “There is no such thing as a small disaster because of the way it will affect people. The client of a single person fire will be given the same support and due diligence as we give a person in a major international disaster.” For Clive, this support means going to the scene night or day and meeting the immediate needs so the client gets back on theirfeet. Although the Red Cross does not rebuild homes or create long-term solutions, Clive feels the Red Cross is the bridge that helps a person move from a disaster to rebuilding. Providing emotional and economic support at the outset of a disaster is vital to give a person a chance to rebuild.
Clive began working at the Red Cross four months ago and began serving clients on his first day. He responded to a fire on the west side of Indianapolis. “It was wonderful to learn on the job. It was wonderful to meet the client. For me, it was a chance to be creative in meeting their needs.” What a person may need after a disaster varies from person to person and requires great creativity. Some clients need assistance locating family members, securing temporary shelter or contacting insurance companies. Some need a friend to stand with them and others need help with their pets.
Another area of Clive’s role at the Red Cross is Service to the Armed Forces. The American Red Cross is committed to support the armed forces in all ways including providing a link between armed forces overseas and family events back home. “The American Red Cross is unique in this way. I don’t believe any other nation’s Red Cross is tied to the armed forces this way,” says Clive.
This commitment of support manifests in large and small ways. In the past, the organization has assisted in the return of a soldier during a family emergency, helped with the recovery of injured soldiers, and connected soldiers with other organizations designed to assist the armed forces. Clive wants to expand this area and make it more personal. To mark DDAY, Clive organized a group of Red Cross staff to visit the VA hospital in Indianapolis. They met with 40 to 50 veterans in their hospital beds to thank them for their service and listen to them. “Basically, just have the privilege of meeting them,” says Clive.
Clive also directs volunteer outreach. The American Red Cross is a volunteer driven organization with a low percentage of paid staff. Clive credits the volunteers with getting the job done. He says, “We have excellent, invaluable, and thoroughly appreciated volunteers. They could be just about anyone. Why not?”
Clive believes volunteering is important to one’s own spirit as well as for the community. Even as a UN employee, Clive volunteered additional hours in the countries he served. One Christmas Day in Sri Lanka, he volunteered in an orphanage painting for hours with the children. “If people volunteer just half a day, once a month, they’d make the country so much better,” Clive says.
Volunteering does not only make the country better, but Clive believes it makes the individual a happier person as well. He says, “When you get a bigger perspective on life, you see you have a role of leaving the world a better place. I am a big believer of the creative spirit that belongs in every human being.” For Clive, being creative can mean anything from creating a written work or sculpture, creating the best service for a client, teaching children to paint, or creating a solution. He believes all people have the power of creativity. He says, “The human mind is naturally creative. It turns to bettering our environment and our lives. If you can tap into that, you will find immense capabilities of forgiveness, compassion, and become a creative peace builder.”